Protect unborn lives, don't end them: Northern Ireland abortion ruling criticized

A pro-life rally held in Dublin, Dec. 4, 2012. Credit: Youth Defence.
A pro-life rally held in Dublin, Dec. 4, 2012. Credit: Youth Defence.

.- Irish pro-life advocates have said Monday's Northern Ireland court decision against abortion restrictions wrongly ignored the lives of the unborn in the name of fighting human rights violations.

“I’m deeply disappointed by the decision of the High Court,” Michael Kelly, editor of the Dublin-based newspaper The Irish Catholic, told CNA Dec. 1. “I believe the High Court to be profoundly wrong in side-stepping the inescapable fact that abortion ends the life of an innocent child.”

Kelly rejected claims that change in the law would be limited to certain circumstances.

“International experience shows that there is no such thing as limited abortion: once the principle is conceded that it can ever be justified to target the innocent unborn child in the womb for death, wider access to abortion is inevitable.”

Justice Mark Horne of Northern Ireland’s High Court on Nov. 30 ruled that the lack of exceptions in Northern Ireland abortion law violates women’s rights under Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights. He said exceptions should be made in cases of fatal fetal abnormality at any time during pregnancy, and also in cases of pregnancy as the result of sexual crime up until the time when the unborn baby can live independently of his or her mother.

He said a woman “has to face all the dangers and problems, emotional or otherwise, of carrying a fetus for which she bears no moral responsibility and is merely a receptacle to carry the child of a rapist and/or a person who has committed incest, or both” and that enforcement of the anti-abortion law “completely ignores the personal circumstances of the victim.”

Horne said that when the unborn baby suffers from abnormalities that will be fatal, “there is no life to protect.”

“There is nothing to weigh in the balance,” the justice added. “When the fetus leaves the womb, it cannot survive independently. It is doomed.”

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the pro-life Life Institute said the ruling was “deeply flawed and discriminatory.” She particularly objected to its treatment of unborn babies with disabilities.

“It is extraordinary to see a High Court judge use such cruel and thoughtless language which will have been enormously hurtful to the majority of parents who carry their sick babies to term and who cherish every moment with their babies, most of whom do live beyond birth,” she said Nov. 30.

Uí Bhriain said she hoped the ruling would be appealed as soon as possible.

Northern Ireland’s Catholic bishops, headed by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh, said it was “profoundly disquieting” that the court weighed one life against another. They said that unborn children are persons and the decision does not change “our duty to respect and protect their right to life.”

“Our day to day pastoral experience teaches us that even in the hardest of hard cases society cannot forget that human life is sacred and always deserving of our utmost protection, compassion and care. The Catholic Church teaches that the duty to care for and protect human life extends equally to a mother and her unborn child in all circumstances,” said the bishops’ Nov. 30 statement.

The bishops cited Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato si', in which he stressed the need to protect human life at its earliest stages. The Pope warned that the loss of sensitivity towards accepting a new life means “other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”

Kelly said the court’s ruling for a right to abortion in the case where the child has been conceived in a crime “takes no account of the fact that abortion means that an innocent child, who played no part in the crime that led to his or her conception, will be killed.”  He said such an act would be “further compounding the injustice of the terrible crime of rape.”

He reflected on the overall political climate of the decision.

“Northern Ireland is one of the last places in the western world to resist the push for widespread availability of abortion. It’s no surprise that the region comes under immense pressure from a coalition of so-called human rights groups and pro-choice advocacy organizations (generally funded from overseas).”

“They will have a fight on their hands: amidst decades of sectarian strife, one of the few things that united the vast majority people of Northern Ireland was a revulsion for abortion. Similarly, many politicians are unshakable in their pro-life credentials,” he said.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had brought the case to the court.

Les Allamby, the body’s chief commissioner, said the result is “historic” and “will be welcomed by many of the vulnerable women and girls who have been faced with these situations.”

The Northern Ireland Assembly has been consistent in opposition to laws that permit abortion, according to Kelly. He said the Human Rights Commission bypassed these institutions.

“This seems like an extreme act of legal activism,” he said of the High Court ruling. “I find it extraordinary that the case to liberalize the law on abortion in Northern Ireland was brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, a body set up by the peace treaty of 1998 which brought an end 30 years of sectarian conflict and violence.”

“It seems perverse that a body set up to defend and vindicate human rights actually took a case to the High Court asking that the inalienable right to life of the most vulnerable, children in the womb, be removed from the safety of legal protection.”

Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin said he was “profoundly disappointed” in the decision and is considering whether to appeal. An appeal must be filed within six weeks, the BBC reports.

Tags: European Convention on Human Rights


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