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Northern Ireland rejects legalizing abortion for fetal anomaly, rape, and incest

A proposal to allow abortions in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, and incest was defeated in Northern Ireland this week, with members of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly voting it down 59-40.

Abortion is legal in the United Kingdom, but the nation’s 1967 abortion act does not apply to Northern Island. The region of Northern Ireland currently allows for abortion only when the mother’s life or health are at risk. Both Northern Ireland and Ireland have seen a recent spike in public abortion debate, especially as some women have complained about having to travel to the nearby island of Great Britain to get a legal abortion.

Recently, politicians in Northern Ireland have lobbied to allow for abortion in case of fatal fetal abnormality. A diagnosis of fatal fetal abnormality means doctors believe it is likely that a preborn baby will die during pregnancy or shortly after birth. But history has proven time and time again that hope and life are strong, and that sometimes life prevails over “terminal” diagnoses – like that of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s daughter, Abigail Rose, diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome before birth.

Abigail’s parents chose life over abortion, and she beat the odds. She is now two years old, but was born without kidneys. Recent reports indicate that her father has donated one of his kidneys to her. Jaime Beutler said regarding Abigail’s surgery, “We are told to expect Abigail to have a lot more energy and spunk, which is really hard to imagine because it doesn’t feel like she could possibly fit more vivacity into that little body… She is a constant talker and is quite observant.”

Leaving children like Abigail without legal rights was one of the concerns that opponents had regarding the now-defeated proposal in Northern Ireland. Attorney General John Larkin said

Providing for a criminal law exception for ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, as proposed by this amendment, provides unborn children diagnosed with such a disability with much less protection under the law of Northern Ireland than those without such a disability.

Dr. Peter Saunders of Christian Medical Fellowship agreed…

The acceptance of these amendments would have left the law badly misshapen and open to further erosion. As is clear from our experience elsewhere in Britain, once we legislate for exceptions we discriminate against some preborn babies and leave them without full legal protection. The current law is clear and right and fit for purpose and does not need changing.

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