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Religious beliefs have no place in lawmaking

I would like to thank Donald Gale (Write Back, April 5) for continuing the important discussion on the nature of the human foetus. I answer his points individually and in detail.

1. Parasitism is a specific type of dependence, where one organism depends on another for its survival to the disadvantage of another. Whether a pregnant woman welcomes her pregnancy or not, she decides whether the relationship between her and the developing embryo is parasitic, or mutualistic.

It is the mother's feelings which are the deciding factors and so should take primacy over foetal dependence.

2. The DNA of a fertilised ovum may well be complete, but the use of the term 'awesome' to describe it is hardly useful. What is awesome to one person may be commonplace to another. In any case, a coded set of instructions is not the actual end product. The instructions making up the human genotype are not the only important factors in the development of the human embryo - environment plays an equally important role in its development.

To say that the DNA code determines the zygote's humanity is a huge - and misleading - over-simplification.

I, again, would argue that it is the right of any pregnant woman to decide whether the following of the DNA instructions should be allowed to continue or not.

3. This brings us close to the crux of the matter. What is right or wrong for a particular human being depends very much on their beliefs. I am glad Donald Gale has come clean on his beliefs, but it should be obvious that not everyone agrees with him.

Quoting the scriptures has no place in law and is irrelevant to any general argument. The law stands for every person - regardless of beliefs - and must represent every person equally and without favour. I would, therefore, plead for a law that represents all women and not just those with religious beliefs.

The real problem in NI is that people's religious views are used against the interests of those not sharing those beliefs. This to me is intolerable and needs considerable, dispassionate attention by our politicians and law-makers.

In my opinion, the 1967 Abortion Act, as operated in England, comes much closer to an acceptable state of affairs than Donald Gale's religiously biased opinion.


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