Bid to 'criminalise' private abortions

Published Wednesday, 27 February 2013
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An amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, aimed at making it a criminal offence to end the life of an unborn child except through the NHS, has been jointly tabled by an SDLP and a DUP MLA.

Bid to 'criminalise' private abortions
SDLP MLA Alban Maginness and DUP MLA Paul Givan, with their proposed ammendment. (© SDLP)

SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness and Lagan Valley DUP MLA Paul Givan have jointly tabled the amendment over "grave concerns" about private clinics operating in Northern Ireland.

They want to ensure it is illegal to carry out an abortion, except through the NHS.

The law in Northern Ireland means abortion is already illegal, except in limited circumstances where the mother's life and/or mental well-being are considered to be at significant risk.

But if those conditions are met, there is no set gestation limit - which means that, if approved by a doctor, a pregnancy can be ended at any stage.

In a joint statement, Mr Maginness and Mr Givan pointed to the opening of a Marie Stopes sexual health clinic in Belfast as having presented "a challenge" to legislators.

The clinic offers a range of services including ultrasound scans, STI testing and treatment, HIV testing, short and long-term contraceptive options and emergency contraception.

It also offers medical abortions which must adhere to the law as it stands in Northern Ireland and also be carried out before the ninth week of pregnancy.

According to the MLAs, "grave concerns surfaced regarding the ability of private clinics to carry out abortive procedures without any form of transparency, oversight or accountability to the public".

Everyone's focus must be on promoting better health and empowering women in particular to prevent crisis pregnancies.

Alban Maginness, SDLP & Paul Givan, DUP

Mr Maginness and Mr Givan added: "Furthermore, it is dangerous that any organisation should receive financial reward from carrying out abortions - especially where there are such distinct legal parameters governing the matter.

"A financial reward for carrying out an abortion is incompatible with the spirit of our legal framework, which governs abortions."

The pair say that, within the NHS, "the welfare of both mother and child will be the primary concern rather than profit margins". They also point to "rigorous levels of scrutiny" faced by the NHS.

They are calling on MLAs across all political parties to considering supporting the amendment, which will state that "any person who ends the life of an unborn child at any stage of that child's development shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a period of not more than ten years imprisonment, and a fine".

The proposed amendment would also give as defences for anyone charged under the law "that the act or acts ending the life of an unborn child were lawfully performed at premises operated by a Health and Social Care Trust", or "that the act or acts ending the life of the unborn child were lawfully performed without fee or reward in circumstances of urgency when access to premises operated by a Health and Social Care Trust was not possible".

The move comes ahead of draft guidelines on abortion going before the Northern Ireland Executive next week.

Legal action taken by the Family Planning Association against the Department of Health, in a bid to have the guidelines published, was halted on Wednesday after confirmation of Health Minister Edwin Poots's position on the issue.

Mr Poots is now to submit a paper seeking approval to go out to public consultation.

© UTV News
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16 Comments
Ryan in Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
@Vee, Belfast: 100% agree with you Vee. Im a SF voter and ill be making sure my local SF/MLA know where i stand on the issue. If they push forward this "pro abortion" agenda then my vote will not be given to SF at the next election, it will go to SDLP. SF is trying to please everyone who they see as a potential voter (such as moderate protestants, moderate unionists, etc who are maybe Pro-Choice) they must realize that they cant please everyone and they will be making a big mistake if they go down this road, to SDLP's benefit. And, yet again, we see on the comment forum from some people going on about "religious dogma". Thats absolute nonsense, why involve religion? The DUP might be a particularly religious party but they have a right to have an opinion regardless if its religious inspired or not but to brand all anti abortion people as "religious" is just plain stupid. I've heard of plently of atheistic or agnostic people who are anti-abortion. And another thing, if Europe as a whole were to outlaw abortion it would achieve the demographic boost it desparatey needs, just look at all the new emerging economies of the world, all have massive populations while europe slugs along behind.
Ryan in Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
Its funny how everyone thinks if someones anti-abortion, that means their "religious". Theres plently of atheist people who disagree with abortion. What about the right of the unborn? What about the right to life? Just because a baby cant speak doesnt mean it shouldnt have rights. Thats what many of you people who are pro-aborton forget, this is a child, not an object, we're talking about here. And another thing people are not considering and thats the demograhpic and economic price of abortion. Ireland has the highest birthrate in Europe, which in the future will help bring business and money into the country and before anyone argues, YES, demographics does matter to a company. Just look at Germany, it has an old population because of very low birthrates, so Germany must take in more and more immigrants (mosty from Turkey) to make up the numbers lost due to abortion, women not being able to have a children, men not being able to have children, etc. The same is happening in the UK, 8 MILLION abortions has happened in the UK since abortion was made legal, no wonder the UK has to import countless immigrants in order to level the demographics. And also, some commentors suggesting that women at Tesco not caring for their child because their not showing much "interest". What a stupid and pathetic thing to say. As i said, keep abortion out of ireland, if you dont want children, wear protection. If you have a child and dont want it, in the extreme cases adoption is available, theres countless couples who cant have children who would happily adopt.
Colin in South Down wrote (602 days ago):
Mike in Belfast: Do you not understand that a baby cannot survive without it's mother feeding it and caring for it? Whether the baby is in the womb or outside the womb, it still requires its mother to care for it to live. What's your point?
Vee in Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
To Survivor in NI Has it ever occurred to you that half of the aborted babies are female? What about their right to life? Abortion is MURDER at any stage - and it is hardly surprising that Sinn Fein will not do anything to prevent it coming to Northern Ireland. (Shame on them - and they have certainly lost any respect I ever had for them) Its not ofen I praise the DUP or SDLP but good on them and may they keep up the good work! We will remember those babies when those who refuse to do anything to prevent their murder ask us later to vote for them.
Mike in Belfast wrote (602 days ago):
There are too many unwanted children that women are forced to have and resent it for the life of the child. You just have to go down to your local Tesco to see women who obviously have no interest in their child and feel regret for ever bringing it into the world. Do these do-gooder prolifers want more misery?
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