Alban Maginness: The 8,894,355 reasons why we must resist the extension of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland
It's surely wrong that European human rights legislation can't protect the unborn child, writes Alban Maginness
Last Sunday church bells all over England rang out in mourning to mark the death of 8,894,355 babies aborted as a result of the Abortion Act passed in 1967 by Parliament and made into law.
Meanwhile, over that same period of time, we in Northern Ireland have, according to an expert professional report by the Both Lives Matter movement, saved approximately 100,000 babies from a similar appalling fate. That is because our laws are life-affirming and give strong legal protection to unborn babies.
Incidentally, this figure of 100,000 saved was contested as being inaccurate by several pro-abortion activists and was the subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
The complaint was fully investigated and the calculation of the figure given robust examination by an independent statistical expert.
The expert concluded that the figure stood up to scrutiny and was probably correct.
The complaint by pro-abortion critics was dismissed, adding further authority to Both Lives Matters' contention that our laws are, in fact, critical to protecting the defenceless life of the unborn in our jurisdiction.
But there is a powerful lobby here who wish to copy the situation in Britain and lawfully permit abortion in Northern Ireland.
This sadly includes the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which wishes to change the law here so that mothers can have abortions in circumstances of serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest.
One would have thought that the NIHRC would be out to protect the lives of the unborn child rather than to expose them to the risk of abortion. They also argue - wrongly - that there is a human right to abortion under human rights law.
Whenever the 1967 Abortion Act was passed at Westminster the argument to justify it was that it was only intended in certain limited circumstances to deal with extreme and tragic cases - very similar to the current argument that abortion should be applied in Northern Ireland just to deal with a very limited number of cases of so-called fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.
However, over the past 50 years the provisions of the Abortion Act in Britain have expanded, in practice, to become a catch-all for abortion on demand - thus the frightening figure of almost nine million who have been aborted since 1967.
This works out at one in five of all pregnancies in Britain per year.
Britain is not the only country in the world where it was claimed that abortion was to be severely curtailed, but in reality became much wider. This is profoundly disturbing and belies the assertion that abortion can, in fact, be restricted indefinitely to a few special cases.
There is no doubt that what was originally intended to be a very limited procedure has now become a huge, multi-million-pound business.
Over the past decade the NHS has paid out a massive £750m to private sector abortion clinics throughout Britain.
Britain will further add to this abortion bill by subsidising the abortions of women from Northern Ireland.
Wouldn't it be better for all if this additional British money was spent in Northern Ireland on assisting those mothers with difficulties, or the promotion of adoption, or fostering, where mothers cannot cope?
Again, it is clinics like Marie Stopes International that will profit from this act of so-called benevolence from Parliament. It is a leading private sector abortion provider, which has a presence here in Belfast.
Marie Stopes was seriously criticised last year by the British Care Quality Commission, with some services suspended because of inspectors' safety concerns.
The British experience should be a grim warning of what to expect should the law here be changed by the Assembly, or be forced to change by the British judiciary.
Strangely, what is currently argued is that the baby in the womb is only a "potential life" and not a human person and, therefore, does not attract the protection of the law and the human right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
Surely it is wrong that the most defenceless of all - that is the unborn child - is not entitled to be protected under European human rights law?
Human rights law emerged out of the gross inhumanity of the Second World War and its many atrocities.
It was because of that appalling experience that the world - and Europe in particular - pledged itself to prevent such a repetition of human rights abuses and, thereby, created a new, universal law of human rights to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Its case law has grown and developed over the past 70 years to meet new challenges.
Surely, that law can be further developed to give lawful protection to the unborn and, at the same time, protect the life of the mother?