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Northern Ireland abortion law appeal successful

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The Court of Appeal in Belfast has this week ruled that the courts cannot decide on abortion law in Northern Ireland and that the matter is up to the Stormont assembly.

Northern Ireland's current law is the strictest in the UK and only allows for abortion when the mother's life is threatened or the pregnancy could result in serious permanent physical or mental damage. It is illegal to perform an abortion, under section 58 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 for any other reason. The penalty for breaking the law is life imprisonment.

In 2015 the High Court ruled that Northern Ireland's law was not compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights that allows for abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or sexual crimes such as rape and incest.

Northern Ireland's justice department and the NI attorney general appealed against the ruling. They argued that there was a lack of legal certainty in the ruling which could lead to abortion on demand and also expressed lack of clarity on the ruling regarding sexual crimes. This week, the appeal was upheld.

Not a completed process

While the court ruling should be seen as a small victory, there is still much to do. The NI Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) is cross-appealing and the case will now go to the Supreme Court. While the High Court did uphold the appeal, and that is very positive, it also said that Northern Ireland's current law breeches women's rights to privacy and bodily autonomy as stated in Article 8 of the European Convention. The Court, quite rightly, did not find the existing law in breach of Articles 3 and 14 which safeguard against torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and discrimination.

Some people who are pro-life in principle accept that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape and incest as well as when the mother's life is immediately threatened. In considering this matter, one must be wary of setting a precedent for selective situational ethics in which foundational morality is discarded for the sake of commodity and convenience. Rape and incest are wrong and when resulting in pregnancy often and understandably instil within the mother a sense of crisis. As broken as the situation is, we must maintain that two wrongs don't make a right. The living child is as much a human being as any child conceived in a lawful way and its right to life must be protected at all costs.

Tragic week for preborn babies

While the news from the Court of Appeal in Belfast has been relatively positive, this has been countered by the news that Her Majesty's Government will fund abortions in England for women arriving from Northern Ireland.

The announcement made by Philip Hammond followed a proposed amendment to the Queen's Speech made by the Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy. The amendment appeared to be garnering backbench Tory support and such a rebellion could have posed a massive embarrassment to the Government. This resulted in the Government opting to make their own statement in favour of funding Northern Irish women seeking an abortion in England under the NHS. This follows the days old coalition deal reached between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland's pro-life Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The Government's agreement to fund abortions for Northern Irish women backtracks on previous decisions against providing such funding and could come across as a slap in the face to the DUP. One of the DUPs MPs, Ian Paisley Jr. indicated, however, that it was not a deal breaker as it was within Westminster's right to decide.

It has been a busy and tragic week in the fight for the preborn child's right to life. At the beginning of the week, the British Medical Association debated and approved a motion to support the decriminalisation of abortion and to lobby the Government to that effect. You can read Andrea Williams' full statement on the matter here.

Silence not an option

The ongoing and increasing devaluation of life in our society is further indication of the turbulent times we live in. Our nation continues to slide temeritously into craven rejection and denial of truth. Local churches, church leaders, and individual Christians must contend for what is good, right, and true. If the reality of preborn children's humanity and personhood is not taught in local churches, it will not be taught anywhere else.

It is time for us to shirk off the shackles of our self-imposed slavery to fear of how society will view us for our 'radical' views. As Christians we are called to a fundamental and radical embrace of human life made in God's image and in that light, given incalculable value at whatever age or stage.

Related Links:
Northern Ireland abortion law breaches human rights, court rules



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