Why MPs should vote against abortion in Northern Ireland today

You have got to give Stella Creasy her due. She has moved very quickly to turn up the pressure for extending UK abortion laws and caught defenders of life on the hop.  A couple of people have written blog articles but there’s no real sense of the significance of this.

Maybe, the reason is that we already have abortion laws in the UK and so extending them to one out of line province isn’t seen as that big a deal. However, I want to suggest that it is a big deal and those who care about life need to wake up.  It’s a big deal because something different had begun to happen over the past decade, the conversation about abortion had begun to change. People watched TV programmes with the latest scientific knowledge on display and the latest technology enabling us to have a window on the womb and to see young life developing. We were beginning to row back a little from the culture of death. The last major change to our abortion laws was to reduce the time limit to 24 weeks and other votes whilst unsuccessful were about reducing not increasing its provision.

The move today is to increase provision -it’s a change of direction and its happening on the basis that we don’t need to talk about the rights and wrongs of abortion. We can simply push this through as being about a woman’s own body without really thinking about the baby. Small legal changes often link to big cultural changes. This vote matters.

I doubt I will get any MPs reading this article. I gently asked a number who were pushing for the law change to answer the two questions in my previous article and was met with silence suggesting that they either could not or would not answer (either reason is concerning).   However, should any stumble across this article today, this is why I am asking you to vote against the motion today.

  1. It is anti-democratic and constitutionally reckless

Why the sudden rush to push through an emergency debate? What created the emergency? Why is this urgent business for the House of Commons today when it wasn’t 2 weeks ago?  Emergency responses in parliament rarely leads to wise decisions.

Whatever the reasons, it makes for bad democracy.  One of the important things about our democracy is the link between each MP and their constituents. The move to change the law primarily happened over the school half term and bank holiday period when many people would have been away on holiday. A debate was agreed in a hurry yesterday. Those factors mean that there was very little chance (if any) for constituents to speak to their MPs. [1]

The other factor is the constitutional one. Only a few weeks back some of the same MPs were complaining that proposals for Northern Ireland resulting from Brexit would risk the Northern Irish Peace process. Now, as it happens I’m not convinced that they would but if that’s your argument, stick consistently with it otherwise it begins to look like you are simply treating Northern Ireland as a political playground -and that would be constitutionally risky.

What we can say is that this goes against the current constitutional settlement where certain matters have been devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. It is an unhealthy situation where central government intervenes in devolved government whenever things aren’t going to plan.

However, what we may miss here is the vehicle being used to change the law. Stella Creasy is not simply asking for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act’s provisions to Northern Ireland but for the repeal parts of the Offenses Against the Person Act. In other words, she is calling for Legislative vandalism in order to get her proposals through. Again, it is worth noting that the result of her agenda (although to decriminalise properly Parliament also need to repeal Section 1 of the Infant Preservation of Life Act (1929)  would be to enable unlimited abortion on demand up until birth as Fiona Bruce explains here.

  1. The proponents have failed to answer the fundamental ethical questions

As I said above, I am waiting for the MPS involved to address the questions “When does human life begin” and “Who has the right to take that life?”

One of the reasons why there was a mood shift towards reducing abortion is that people could clearly see that the baby developing in the womb is human.  Whether or not people were prepared to see it as beginning at conception, they could certainly see that we were talking about human life at the very points where abortion was still allowed.

I would urge those contemplating their decision to read this article which talks through the scientific questions.

  1. Abortion is not in the interests of women

This has been represented as a Women’s’ Rights issue but in fact it is anything but.  Pro-Life proponents have called for us to #LoveBoth the mother and the child. I agree with that phrase but there is a risk with it. We can assume that abortion does love the mum whilst failing to live the child. However, abortion does not love the mum.

Read this article here about how abortion is harmful to the mother.

One of the startling proposals made for changing the law was that if a debate wasn’t given then proponents would amend another bill – that bill was intended to protect women from domestic abuse. It is shocking that people would highjack an act of parliament designed to protect women from abuse in order to push through another political agenda.

The assumption of course is that women will favour abortion more than men because it is about their rights. We are told to #TrustAllWomen until of course those women include the leader of the main political party in the area affected and she is saying “I disagree.” It seems that #TrustAllWomen does not mean “Trust them to hold and explain an ethical position.” [2]

The reality is that abortion is not in the interests of individual women. Rather it benefits the powerful.

The main beneficiaries of abortion are:

–        Powerful, rich men who can have affairs and then cover them up by telling their mistresses to “Get rid of it.”

–        Business owners and the State who lose out when women are taken out of the productive labour market to have children.

Abortion does not look after women or value them. Rather, it tells then that if they have an “unwanted pregnancy” then it is just that “unwanted” inconvenient a problem. It tells them that they and they alone are responsible for dealing with the problem. It’s “nothing to do with anyone else.”

Abortion tells young girls who have made mistakes that they must hide their shame.  It is the complete opposite of a loving community where grace and love are offered and where the single mum is loved and helped. Abortion isn’t really that much different to sending the girl off to have the baby in secret and then hand it over to the nuns at the orphanage.

  1. Abortion is bad for dads, family and community

We are constantly told that there is a problem with disaffected young men in our communities. Those of us who live and work on estates and inner cities don’t need to be told this, we see it first hand.

Yet what message is given to these young men when they are told to keep their noses out of the abortion debate or specific decisions about abortion? What are they being told when they are told that the abortion is the mum’s personal choice?  It’s fairly obvious isn’t it.

They are being told that they don’t matter, they are not involved. It’s not just about rights, it’s about responsibilities too. The child is nothing to do with them. Well don’t be surprised when young men have nothing to do with bringing up their children either. Don’t be surprised when another generation of boys emerges without father figures to look to and so get involved in gangs. Don’t be surprised when young girls without loving dads to care for them are left vulnerable to older men who spoil and groom them.

Conclusion

Parliament does not have the power to make something right/good by legislating. Killing unborn babies will remain ethically wrong and harmful to mums, dads and babies. All that legislation does is make parliament complicit in the wrong.

I urge MPS to vote against a culture of death to day. I urge them to choose life.

Footnote

Just to explain a little bit more of the legislative issues.  The nature of Abortion in the UK is that it remains a criminal offence to destroy life including unborn babies under the Offenses Against the Person Act. The 1967 Abortion Act provided defences against prosecution up to 28 weeks which was amended in 1990 down to 24 weeks.  Stella Creasy’s motion is to get the relevant clauses from the OAPA repealed. However, there is also the Infant Life Protect Act which makes the destruction of an unborn baby at greater than 28 weeks a Criminal Offence. This therefore leaves us with uncertainty about how the 1967 Act functions decoupled from the Offenses Against the Person Act in relation to the Infant Life Protection Act. It looks like Creasy’s aims would require the second Act’s provision s repealing too to avoid uncertainty or a continuing unequal position between Northern Ireland and the mainland.

[1] I would encourage you to email, send facebook messages or tweet your MP today

[2] The hashtag is of course vacuous. We would not decriminalise murder, fraud, burglary with the slogan #TrustAllMen Trusting people to act ethically does not mean that we simply relinquish a legal/ethical poition. Trusting people individually does not mean that we can’t have an agreed understanding of what is ethically right.

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