Wednesday 10 September 2008

Pro-abortion politician says Northern Ireland is backward for opposing Abortion Act

The latest campaign for the extension of Britain's Abortion Act to Northern Ireland was launched last night at a shambolic meeting in one of Belfast's most expensive hotels. There were about 100 people there, mostly from Northern Ireland but with significant numbers from southern Ireland, England and further afield. All the usual suspects attended: the Family Planning Association, the Irish Family Planning Association, the Ulster Humanists' Association and, of course, the Socialist Workers' Party.

Only two of the 108 members of the Northern Ireland legislative assembly (MLAs) openly support the extension of the Abortion Act and both spoke at the meeting. One is the sole representative of a fringe party linked to a Loyalist terrorist group which refuses to decommission its weapons. The other MLA is from the Alliance party, which has always opposed violence.

Alliance is a small party with seven assembly members and no policy on abortion. Some Alliance MLAs are pro-life but Anna Lo, the member for South Belfast (above right), supports the extension of the 1967 act to Northern Ireland. Ms Lo told the gathering that she was not advocating abortion on demand but said she was a realist. She went on to say that women were criminalised by Northern Ireland's "ancient law" which only permits abortion on strictly medical grounds.

Northern Ireland, she said, had always been a conservative society but if the province wanted to attract people and stop the brain drain, it had to be more liberal. "How can we remain so backward?" she asked. In fact, there is no brain drain from Northern Ireland and, if a society wants to have more talented young people, then it should not kill them before they are born.

When the Olympic torch was making its way through Britain, Ms Lo's son was involved in protests against China's appalling human rights record. It is sad, therefore, that someone from a culture where abortion has been the cause of so much suffering should be blind to the injustice of British abortion law. Later when speaking to a member of SPUC who attended the meeting, Ms Lo refused to believe that it was legal in Britain to abort a child with a disability right up to birth.

It is regrettable that she implies that many of the people who elected her to the Northern Ireland Assembly are backward. While no country has a perfect human rights record, there is no comparison between the problems Northern Ireland has seen and what goes on every day in China, where women are forcibly aborted and baby girls are abandoned to die because of the traditional preference for sons.

When it comes to abortion Ms Lo is not the realist she thinks she is. She admits that, in the past, she has helped women get abortions, and she is now advocating a law which she clearly doesn't understand. Ms Lo owes the people of Northern Ireland an apology for calling them backward because they believe that unborn children have a right to life. Rather than being backward, Northern Ireland does pretty well in many ways, including having the UK's lowest maternal mortality rate.