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Abortion up for Debate at Belfast City Council

The following motion is up for debate at Belfast City Council today,  Thursday 1st of March. It has been proposed by Councillor Nicholl (Alliance) and Seconded by Councillor Campbell (Sinn Fein). The proposal is as follows:

This Council notes the increasing number of women who are accessing abortion pills via the internet, which leaves them vulnerable to prosecution. 

The Council further notes the impact on healthcare professionals who, under Section 5 of the Criminal Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1967, may have a duty to provide information to the Police Service. Therefore, if a woman requires medical assistance after accessing these pills, the threat of prosecution and life in prison is likely to act as a real deterrent, thus potentially having a detrimental impact on her health. 

Accordingly, the Council believes that abortion should be regulated like any other medical care and not by criminal law, while still enabling incidents of malpractice to be addressed, as with any other health service, through the general criminal law or medical disciplinary procedures’.

It should be noted that abortion is not medical care, but the intentional action of taking the life of the unborn in the womb. Should women need medical care in cases of pregnancy where there is risk of life to the mother or serious and permanent risk to her mental health medical treatment can be given which has the foreseen but unintended circumstance that the pregnancy is ended. However, if there is no such threat to the life or mental health of the mother during pregnancy, there is no medical care that needs to be provided; and so the seeking of an abortion in such circumstances is not the seeking of medical treatment, but seeking to end the life of the child in the womb. In NI, medical care is never refused a woman because she is pregnant. Therefore, there is no need to change our abortion laws, nor is there any medical need to seek out abortions across the water, which is why the establishment and management by BPAS of a central booking service to arrange abortions for NI women across the water meets no medical need (read full story here: https://www.belfastlive.co.uk/news/ni-women-can-now-arrange-14350039).

Now, we recognise that a small number of vulnerable women in NI seek to procure abortions in a number of ways, including accessing abortion pills, and that women in such circumstances face severe strains to their mental health. But the solution to this is not to legalise the procurement of abortion simply because it happens, but to offer support to mothers for whom the prospect of pregnancy is a daunting one. Our pro-life laws here in NI have resulted the saving of at least 100,000 lives, and this debate at Belfast City Council is simply another attempt to undermine such laws. Our laws do not prevent medical treatment; rather, in accord with the UN General Assembly’s Declaration on the rights of the Child, they protect the unborn. In NI we have laws which protect listed buildings, flora, fauna etc, how much more so is it necessary then to have laws which protect human life. Therefore, we at Iona Institute NI would advise Belfast City Council to debate how best to offer both mental health and financial support to mothers in dire situations rather than to advocate for the removal of legal protection for the unborn.