Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster is seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, after his office threatened to bypass the Stormont assembly and impose abortion provision on Northern Ireland against the wishes of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In 2019, MPs in Westminster voted to impose wide-ranging abortion on Northern Ireland during the period when the Northern Ireland Assembly was temporarily suspended.
Once the Assembly was back up and running, significant opposition was expressed by MLAs to the imposition of abortion by the Westminster parliament.
An indication of where members of the Northern Ireland Assembly stand on the issue was on display earlier this week when MLAs voted 48 to 12 to pass the second stage of the DUP Private Members’ Bill outlawing abortion up to birth where an unborn baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome or any other non-fatal disability. The result should give encouragement to every pro-life supporter.
Before the vote, Arlene Foster and others gave impassioned speeches in favour of the Bill, with Ms Foster comparing the abortion of unborn babies with Down syndrome to eugenics.
In advance of the vote, disability rights campaigner, Heidi Crowter, who herself has Down syndrome, told the Health Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly that “the law in Great Britain, and now sadly the law in Northern Ireland, tells me and other people with Down syndrome that we are worth less than those without disabilities. That is why I want my voice to be heard and the laws to be fairer. My husband also has Down Syndrome and I value him and I think society should too. The law makes me feel very sad it is saying that I, and people like me, may as well have not been born”.
Sinn Féin was widely criticised for abstaining in Monday’s vote. Aontú’s representative for East Derry Gemma Brolly accused Sinn Féin of talking a lot about disability rights while at the same time refusing to take a stand in opposition to the deeply discriminatory abortion law forced upon Northern Ireland by Westminster.
When Westminster sought to impose the change on Northern Ireland in 2019, it was left to the DUP and others to oppose the move, as Sinn Féin largely welcomed the imposition from London. Now that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is threatening to give effect to those changes through further diktat from the Westminster parliament, once again it is the DUP and not Sinn Féin who are speaking up for devolution and the right to the Northern Ireland Assembly to decide the law on abortion.
The antics of Sinn Féin this week was plain for all to see. They tried to please everyone and ended up pleasing no one. They chose pragmatism over principle and figured they could get away with it.
But the abortion issue is not like other issues. You either stand up for life or you don’t. The last thing voters appreciate are their elected representatives trying to have it every way. It might work with other issues but not with abortion. This week Sinn Féin got caught “speaking out both sides of their mouth”, as Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín put it. Every pro-life voter needs to take note and never forget it.