Tuesday 20 May 2008

NI cross-party unity on abortion

The leaders of the four main political parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly have signed a letter to all Westminster MPs urging them to vote against any measure which would extend British abortion law to their part of the UK. The signatories are Mr Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin, Mr Mark Durkan, SDLP, Sir Reg Empey, UUP, and Dr Ian Paisley, DUP.

Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland writes: "It would be difficult to overestimate the significance of the letter from the leaders of Northern Ireland’s major political parties. A joint statement of this kind, signed by all four of them, is unprecedented. Together they represent 90% of the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which demonstrates the level of determination in the Province to resist threats to extend the Abortion Act. Although Parliament has the political power to impose the Act, the moral authority clearly rests with the Assembly. The party leaders are asking MPs to respect that.

"The leaders of Northern Ireland’s major Christian denominations have also written to MPs asking them to acknowledge that any change to abortion legislation ought be the responsibility of the Assembly.

"On 22 October 2007 Assembly members from the four parties gave overwhelming support to a motion rejecting 'any attempt to make abortion more widely available in Northern Ireland.'

"The people of Northern Ireland still recognise the right to life of the unborn child – a right affirmed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They are also concerned by the evidence of the harm abortion does to women. While the law in Northern Ireland protects unborn children, it protects women as well."