Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Battle over abortion issue is far from over

'In July this year, politicians at Westminster in effect forced Northern Ireland to introduce access to abortion rights in this province in the continuing absence of the Assembly, which is the default legislative body in this regard' (stock photo)
'In July this year, politicians at Westminster in effect forced Northern Ireland to introduce access to abortion rights in this province in the continuing absence of the Assembly, which is the default legislative body in this regard' (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

It is significant that large numbers of people have again taken to the streets of Belfast, this time at the weekend, to protest against the changes to the law governing abortion in Northern Ireland.

In July this year, politicians at Westminster in effect forced Northern Ireland to introduce access to abortion rights in this province in the continuing absence of the Assembly, which is the default legislative body in this regard.

Prior to this, the legislation in Northern Ireland had outlawed abortion in almost all circumstances.

Accordingly, under the new arrangements, it is expected that the first abortions will be carried out here early in the New Year.

The fact that substantial numbers of people attended the NI Voiceless rally at Stormont on Saturday would strongly indicate that the controversial debate about abortion in Northern Ireland is far from over, despite Westminster's fundamentally undemocratic intervention on this crucial social issue during the summer.

Sarah Crutchley, one of the organisers of Saturday's rally, stated clearly: "We are heartbroken over the change in Northern Ireland and we want to express our sorrow, because the right to life of unborn children has been totally disregarded."

She added: "We want a life-affirming society here, where every life is valued and no death is chosen.

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"We want to stand, speak and serve for the lives of unborn children and for women in need."

Nevertheless, supporters of the rights of the unborn child can too easily concede the terms "liberalising" or "reform" when it comes to legal changes in the status of abortion in Northern Ireland.

In reality both terms are virtue-signalling, and who in their right mind could object to something becoming more "liberal", or outdated practices being "reformed"?

However, while no social or ethical arrangements should be sanctified simply on the grounds of their longevity, neither should arguments about the utility of such arrangements simply surrender the moral high ground to their opponents in so facile a manner.

Nevertheless, a large number of people in Northern Ireland remain opposed to the introduction of any form of abortion here.

Ironically, this is one of the few issues on which unionists and nationalists are prepared to leave their sectarian silos and to try to find a common cause.

Without doubt the local parties' election manifestos should be clear on where they stand concerning abortion.

In the interests of transparency, they should all re-state their positions on this vexed issue, and well before December 12, to allow electors to factor this into their voting preferences.

In particular, those parties which proudly preen their democratic election principles might also try to explain why they are content to lend their support to such a miserly, undemocratic imposition on abortion.

Belfast Telegraph

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