Belfast Telegraph

Pro-life campaigner slams politicians’ Northern Ireland abortion reform call

By Gillian Halliday

Pro-life campaigner Bernie Smyth has branded a letter signed by more than 170 UK and Irish politicians calling for abortion reform in Northern Ireland a "clear attack" on devolution.

The letter, which was published in the Sunday Times at the weekend, argues that Downing Street cannot continue to argue that it is a devolved matter as Stormont continues to remain dissolved.

However, Mrs Smyth, director of anti-abortion lobby organisation Precious Life, said the move - supported by Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald along with Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone and Lib Dem deputy Jo Swinson - was an attempt to "undermine" the democratic process here.

The letter to Prime Minister Theresa May and her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar was co-ordinated by Labour MP Stella Creasy in partnership with pro-choice organisations including Amnesty International, and calls for the repeal of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against The Person Act, which make it a crime for a woman to cause her own abortion in Northern Ireland.

According to the group, nearly 1,000 women and girls were forced to cross the Irish Sea to access terminations last year, although the number has dramatically fallen since the Government agreed to fund abortions in Britain on the NHS.

They said they were backing the call for abortion reform to be extended to the province to protect women's human rights and honour the Good Friday Agreement - a position heavily disputed by the pro-life campaigner.

"In 2016 the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against any change in the laws, so this must be respected," said Mrs Smyth.

"This is a clear attack on Northern Ireland's democratic process. It's totally outrageous and demonstrates a shocking level of utter contempt for democracy."

Urging Theresa May to maintain the status quo, she said it was "abhorrent" that "pro-abortionists are attempting to use the Good Friday Agreement to legalise the killing of our children".

"The spirit of the Good Friday agreement was all about respecting devolution, and was founded on the principles of full respect for and equality of all rights, and of freedom from discrimination for all people in Northern Ireland," she added.

"Our unborn children must never be discriminated against.

"Their most fundamental right - the right to life - must always be respected and upheld."

Belfast Telegraph

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