Repugnant abortion drugs should not be legalised or normalised in Northern Ireland

Today’s abortion pill judicial review backed by Amnesty international and other pro-choice lobby groups is part of an ongoing and relentless campaign to undermine Northern Ireland’s abortion law. This case being heard in the High Court today involves a challenge to the decision by Northern Ireland’s public prosecution service to prosecute a mother for procuring illegal abortion pills for her 15 year old daughter. The focus of this court case should not be Northern Ireland’s life-saving abortion laws, but the technical details surrounding the PPS decision to prosecute.

This is a deeply saddening case. It is well known that these powerful and potent drugs designed to end the life of a newly developing baby up until twelve weeks gestation (WHO guidelines) present serious physical and mental health risks to pregnant women. There is a host of known serious side-effects for use of the abortion pill drugs: misoprostol, mifepristone, and methotrexate including ruptured uterus, haemorrhaging, hepatotoxicity (liver damage) for the mothers, and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disease and malformation for their babies if the baby survives.

The French National Agency for medicines and Health Products Safety [ANSM] issued warnings about the gynaecological risks of Cytotec [misoprostol] in 2001 and 2013.The French national authority for health issued recommendations along similar lines in 2008 and 2015. French doctors continued to ignore these warnings and in March this year the drug was eventually banned in France.

In the United States the Federal drug agency states no data is yet available on the safety and efficacy of mifepristone in women with chronic medical conditions, and states women who are more than 35 years of age and who also smoke 10 or more cigarettes per day should be treated with caution because such patients were generally excluded from clinical trials of mifepristone.

The pro-choice lobby in their crusade to undermine Northern Ireland’s abortion law by legalising and normalising the use of these abortion drugs at home are doing women a great disservice. Not only do they ignore the new human life that is ended but also the trauma involved for women in delivering and then disposing off the remains of this new human life.

The repugnant reality of these drugs is that often the recognisable developing baby that is delivered is  disposed of along with other waste materials eventually ending up in the sewage system. The fact that a fifteen year old girl supported by her mother has undergone this tragic course of action is incredibly disturbing. How on earth can this ever be described as compassionate and progressive care?

Women in Northern Ireland facing unplanned pregnancies deserve genuinely life affirming quality support and care. In 2018 no woman should ever feel forced to take this drastic course of action. Our laws here in Northern Ireland should continue to carefully uphold the life health, dignity and well-being of both mothers and unborn babies.

Tracy Harkin


Pro-Life Community Leaders at Westminster

A group of community leaders from NI are visiting Westminster today (18/7/18) to tell MPs not to risk crippling devolution by imposing abortion laws on NI. MPs will hear from seven women, including a former Sinn Fein Mayor, a current DUP MLA, an SDLP councillor, and spokesperson for Iona NI Mrs Tracy Harkin.

The message of the group is that there are many women across Northern Ireland who do not want the current abortion law to be changed. This comes within the context of ever greater pressure to undermine NI’s pro-life laws at Westminster. Recently some have called for a free vote in the House of Commons on Labour MP Stella Creasy’s proposed amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill. If successful, this would see new abortion laws imposed on Northern Ireland, which would be even less restrictive than the current law in GB, despite the fact that abortion is a devolved responsibility for the Northern Ireland Assembly and has been so since 2009.

Leading Conservatives, including the party’s deputy chair James Cleverly and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson have warned against going over the heads of the Northern Ireland assembly, as has SNP MP Deirdre Brock. Polling by Both Lives Matter also showed a huge majority – 72 per cent – of Conservative MPs are against devolution being undermined by imposing abortion laws on Northern Ireland.

Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter said: “It’s vital that MPs hear from women who live and work in Northern Ireland and who represent other women across the Province.There are a lot of myths about abortion law in Northern Ireland, it’s important for the GB public to know that women in NI do have access to safe and legal abortion, in carefully limited circumstances. There’s been a lot of noise about the “need” for new abortion law in Northern Ireland. This is being driven by pro-abortion campaigners who are trying to open up unlimited access to abortion. We represent some of the many Northern Irish women who reject this. We would urge British MPs to respect the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives. Our current law provides proper protection for both the mother and the unborn baby and we’ve found that many women have no desire for that law to be changed.”

DUP NI Assembly Member for Upper Bann, Carla Lockhart, said:
“I have constituents who are deeply concerned at the prospect of abortion on demand being foisted on Northern Ireland. We will be urging members of both Houses to respect the sincere and deeply held views of many in Northern Ireland about abortion as well as the role of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Abortion was fully devolved to the Assembly in 2009. Any move to liberalise our abortion laws through Westminster would be unreasonable and disrespectful to the democratic process in Northern Ireland. Such significant change would undermine the principle of devolution. It would be short-sighted and foolish in the extreme to take advantage of the current political complexities at Stormont to impose such controversial legislation over our heads.”

Former Sinn Fein Mayor, Ann Brolly, said:
“The devolved administration in the north of Ireland was hard won and is currently very fragile. If MPs are serious about respecting it then they will not legislate above the heads of our elected representatives. All across the north there are many women, of different political persuasions who do not want this sort of imposition and I would strongly urge MPs to listen to the views expressed today.”

The most recent consideration of abortion by the NI assembly was in 2016 and showed a clear majority against changing our pro-life laws. Let us hope that Westminster politicians listen to us today.

Blog, Media

The Existence of God

The question of the existence of God is one that is part and parcel of contemporary society’s general interest in religion. All religious traditions consider the issue of some divine being, even those which reject the existence of a divine figure precisely because their religious outlook is formed on the basis of the lack of a divinity. The three main Western monotheisms affirm the existence of a single divine being which is the cause of the existence of all things. Nevertheless, there are important differences amongst these monotheisms on how to conceive of the divine being.

Given the close association of belief in the existence of God with religious belief more generally, it is often assumed in non-specialist discussions that belief in the existence of God is an article of faith and thus held on the basis of faith. Hence, belief in God is often taken to be on the same level as faith in the doctrines derived from revealed scripture, so that if we can reject scripture we can reject the existence of God. But if we look at some representative thinkers of Western monotheism, we see that for them the existence of God is not something that one holds on the basis of faith, but that one can have a rigid demonstration of God’s existence on the basis of natural reason. Indeed, St Thomas Aquinas, a representative Catholic theologian, argues in Summa Theologiae, Ia, qu. 2, art. 2 that the existence of God is not an article of faith but a preamble to the other articles of faith. This is to say, one must believe in God before one has faith, and that one’s faith builds upon belief in God. Hence, belief in God is not a part of faith, but precedes faith, and so is not held by faith. So how does one come by this belief?

Before proceeding it will be useful to distinguish some terminology. Often the terms ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ are used interchangeably when in fact they are distinct. One can have all sorts of beliefs, and they can be justified either on the basis of reason or on the basis of faith. So I believe that the earth is spherical because I have read the justifications of that outlook and I have seen pictures of the earth from space; this is a belief which is justified by natural reason. I believe that the floor beneath me will not collapse all of a sudden, not because I have investigated the integrity of the building materials or its design, but because it has remained solid for a substantial period of time and I have no reason to think it will not hold good in the future. This is a belief held by faith, since a number of factors come together to bring about my assent to that belief without direct confirmation. So belief is a kind of mental content, and one can assent to a belief either on the basis of natural reason providing a proof or on the basis of faith. Notice here that faith is not the attitude of believing without thinking; since in the belief that the floor will not collapse beneath me, it is hardly the case that I believe it without thinking, because if challenged as to why I believe this I could go on to give various reasons. But crucially the reasons do not directly amount to proof and so do not command the assent that demonstration by natural reason commands.

Turning then to belief in God, I have noted that in Western monotheism it was not held to be something justified by faith, and indeed we have seen one representative thinker who held that it is a belief that must be in place prior to faith. We can go through a number of important thinkers who all offered demonstrations for the existence of a divine being, to name a view from various religious traditions: Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Scotus, Moses Maimonides, Avicenna (Ibn-Sina), Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Plantinga, Lonergan. These figures cover diverse religious traditions: Pagan, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, and range from the ancient world to the twentieth century. Their demonstrations of God are well known and well documented in specialist circles and contemporary commentators on religious issues really ought to be familiar with their thinking if they are to comment on issues pertaining to the existence of God with any sort of authority (even if they wish to reject all such demonstrations of God’s existence).

But why have thinkers throughout the ages thought that the existence of God can be demonstrated and that it is not an article of faith like the Trinity or the Incarnation?

I think that what has impressed so many thinkers is the sheer existence of things; the fact that things are but may as well not have been has stimulated many to consider whether or not what accounts for the existence of things can be just another of those things which may as well not be. This observation has often led thinkers to progress on a form of complex reasoning by which they conclude that the very existence of things is not something explicable by appeal to any one thing whose existence is such that it may as well not have been, but must be located in something whose existence is such that it cannot not be, i.e. something that is simply pure existence itself and not an entity participating for now in existence. This insight into things is something I think is to be found in some form in the major representatives of Western monotheism and it is brought to perfection in the thought of St Thomas Aquinas (I defend the viability of one of his proofs in my book Aquinas’s Way to God: The Proof in De Ente et Essentia).

My point here is not to go into the depths of specialist philosophical reasoning (I have done that elsewhere); rather, I wish to highlight that the question of the existence of God is not simply one of personal faith and so to be side-lined to some private realm. The existence of God has some heavyweight reasoning behind it, and such reasoning is natural, that is to say, it makes no appeal to revelation or private experiences; it simply appeals to realities and concepts such as the existence of things, causality, causal relations etc that any rational person can understand. This then entails that not only ought the existence of God be taken more seriously in the public sphere and not dismissed as a private belief, but that those who wish to dismiss belief in the existence of God as something irrational will have to deal with the very rational and indeed reasonable argumentation of the thinkers mentioned above. At the very least this should generate a worthwhile public discussion wherein views can be exchanged and engaged with on the issue without theists being dismissed as irrational, backwards, idiotic, and without atheists being dismissed as irreligious, sinful, evil.

Dr Gaven Kerr


Press Release on Supreme Court Ruling

The Iona Institute NI welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission Review Case published today.

Iona NI spokeswoman Tracy Harkin states

‘This formal ruling today by the supreme court, the highest legal opinion of the land, re-affirms Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws. As the ruling indicates, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission did not have standing to bring this case and as a result no formal determination of incompatibility of our pro-life laws with human rights was made. Once again we see affirmed that there is no human right to an abortion’.

‘We welcome the fact that this ruling makes clear that it is not for the courts to change our pro-life laws, but for legislators, whether at Stormont or Westminster; and we find it not a little ironic that in the same week that this ruling is released we had the emergency debate at Westminster where the government re-affirmed the fact that abortion is a devolved issue for NI’.

Tracy continues

‘We are thankful for the resilient defence of life that the majority of our local representatives across the political spectrum continue to exhibit. Our pro-life laws have saved 100,000 lives; lives that matter and that are worth something and which we value in our society. The pro-life movement in NI will continue to advocate for support and services that value the life, health, and dignity of both mother and unborn child in even the most difficult circumstances’.

‘We acknowledge the opinions of the judges that, personally speaking, they do believe there to be an incompatibility between our laws and human rights; but we welcome and praise their integrity that they did not let such personal opinions affect their legal judgement in this case. We would now encourage the NIHRC to focus its attention on the pressing human rights issues that affect our society, such as human trafficking and slavery, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and the abuses of human rights that occur for those stricken by severe poverty or who are on the margins of society’.


For more information please contact Tracy Harkin 07531149891 or


“Don’t tell me it isn’t a baby!”

Mary Lewis BL writes an open letter to Nell McCafferty on abortion (

Dear Nell,

I was deeply struck by your recent reflections on the upcoming referendum on the proposal to repeal the 8th amendment. I am a Northern woman of strong views like yourself, but with no vote, just a voice on this important issue for our entire country, North and South.

You call abortion “cruel, crass and stupid”. I agree with you that abortion is no solution to a crisis pregnancy. Women definitely deserve better from government, family, and medical professionals. The baby, as a human being, also deserves better than instant death.  I agree too, that economic priority has not been given to young people wishing to start off in life and that the homelessness crisis is a national scandal.  You put it well in describing how “there was no room at the inn” for many of these women who seek abortion. I too wonder why this referendum was given precedence over tackling the homelessness crisis and the perennial defects in the health service. All of us should be putting our efforts into remedying these first, before spending time and money removing the only legal protection left to unborn Irish babies (alive, but not yet born – (‘na mbeo gan breith’). Some might cynically suggest that there is method in the Government’s priorities, since through legislating for abortion, the government ultimately reduces the population. What if the estimated 100,000 lives saved by the 8th amendment since 1983, had been aborted instead?

I was particularly touched by the conversation you had in 1983 with your mother which changed your language on abortion. Her straightforward remark about your miscarried sibling: “Don’t tell me it isn’t a baby!” could well be repeated this week, to remind voters what they are voting on. Will the Irish people do away with rights currently provided under the Constitution to the voiceless unborn or will they choose to dispense with these rights altogether? Will you? You are only a few steps away. There is still time to re-assess that Yes vote, and vote No.

In voting No you would be generously considering the rights of all, not just one privileged group. No-one needs to be “put through the wringer” if they have a diagnosis or rather prognosis, of a life limiting condition. Instead, the love of perinatal hospice care here in Ireland is a kinder solution for the parents and children in these heartrending situations. This is a service which the government could offer cheaply, without disrupting the two patient model of pregnancy, which is so in keeping with that phrase you love: “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”.

So go for it, Nell, do the women and babies of Ireland a favour, in this gravest of moments and take the next logical step to what your heart is telling you.

Thank you for taking the time to consider these thoughts as we stand on the threshold of the most important referendum in decades for our entire land.

Kind regards,

Mary Lewis