Platform: Jim Wells, MLA

Platform: Jim Wells, MLA

6 June 2018

IN reference to the article by Cllr Patrick Brown which was published in last week’s Down Recorder, it is unfortunate that rather than spending time representing his constituents in Rowallane — an area where he has been remarkably absent in recent months — Cllr Brown took the opportunity to call for the relaxation of the laws on abortion in Northern Ireland.

What he failed to mention in his article is that as a direct result of the fact that the Northern Ireland Parliament did not extend the 1967 Abortion Act to this part of the United Kingdom there are 102,000 people alive in the province today who would not be here had we had abortion on the demand.

Had we followed the example of England, Scotland and Wales we would have added to their appalling total of 9.2 million babies who have had their lives ended in the womb over the last 51 years.

Cllr Brown referred to what are termed the “difficult cases”, but it is worth noting that 98.8% of abortions carried out in Britain ended the lives of babies who were totally healthy and who had not been conceived as a result of sexual crime.

The average woman in Britain who has had an abortion is 32, married and already has two children. These are not crisis pregnancies, but unwanted or inconvenient pregnancies. Last year 70,000 women in the rest of the UK had their second abortion and 50 had their eighth termination.

I have a friend who was told by several consultants that her unborn baby could not survive when she had her ten-week scan. At 24 weeks she was given the same information, but refused to have an abortion. Her son was born normally and had heart surgery. He has a life expectancy of 74 years and recently sung at a church service I attended.

The experts can get it wrong, but even if his life had only lasted two hours, two weeks or two months, I strongly believe that he had a right to that life, no matter how short.

If we followed Cllr Brown’s ill-considered advice and tamper with our laws on the protection of the unborn child, the floodgates will open and we would follow Britain, Australia and most of Europe where there is effectively abortion on demand.

This is exactly what happened in the Irish Republic where the initial demand was to change their laws to deal with the “difficult cases”, but this rapidly escalated to a successful campaign to permit unlimited abortion up to 12 weeks. 

Following the referendum result we all witnessed the media coverage of thousands of campaigners having a street party to celebrate their newly granted right to end the lives of thousands of perfectly healthy Irish babies.

Not only did many people in South Down find this behaviour grotesque, some noticed the irony that many of those who were cheering outside Dublin Castle a few days ago would not have been there to campaign for a Yes vote had the Irish Republic introduced abortion on demand at the same time as Britain.

My views on this issue are well known. I believe that life begins at conception and that no one has a right to end that life in the womb. In England there are hospital wards where the staff frantically try to keep 23-week babies alive while down the corridor their colleagues are ending the lives of children who are exactly the same age. I don’t want to see that happening in this part of the United Kingdom.

Since the referendum I have made it very clear in the media that I see no need to change the law which has saved so many lives in Northern Ireland. I have received messages of support from right across South Down where many people are horrified about what is happening in the Irish Republic and  are urging me to stand firm in the defence of our most defenceless citizens – the unborn. Many of these constituents are from the Nationalist community who now feel frustrated and voiceless as a result of the policy changes by the SDLP and Sinn Fein. I have committed myself to represent their sincerely held views on this crucial issue.

Cllr Brown has no responsibility for this matter and I hope he never will. It is up to the Northern Ireland Assembly to make decisions on this crucial issue. We last did this on February 10, 2016, when two Alliance MLAs attempted to change our current legislation.  There was a long and measured debate and the large number of MLAs present listened carefully to arguments which were very similar to those put forward by Councillor Brown.

The Alliance Party’s attempt to bring abortion to Northern Ireland failed, as their proposals were defeated by a substantial majority of MLAs from right across the political divide. The will of the Assembly has been clearly established and I believe that this reflects the view of the people of Northern Ireland.

Throughout this recent debate the Alliance Party has frequently referred to ‘choice’ and ‘human rights’. Not once have they mentioned the fact that the child who is about to be aborted has not been offered any choice and that baby will shortly lose the most basic of human rights — the right to live. It is all very well to champion the right to choose when you have been not chosen.