Last week, the Houses of Parliament voted in favour of forcing a new abortion regime on Northern Ireland. These changes to the abortion law will not go ahead if the Northern Ireland Assembly reconvenes by October 21st.
But do English, Welsh and Scottish MPs even know the full extent of what they have imposed on Northern Ireland? Are the people of Northern Ireland aware of exactly what this new abortion regime will include?
They voted to force abortion on Northern Ireland, but did they know that the route they chose to do this would introduce abortion up to 28 weeks – well past the point of viability? Did they think about the effect this would have on the medical profession? People with disabilities? Or even the fact that the law would allow abortion pills to be given out at school without parental consent?
These are just some of the consequences of the new abortion regime to which Parliament gave next to no consideration. So it’s our job – after the Bill has already passed – to subject this legislation to the kind of scrutiny that it didn’t get in Parliament.
It is very important to note all of this can be stopped if the Northern Ireland Assembly reconvenes by October 21st.
KEY FACTS (CLICK TO READ FULL DETAILS)
- Late-term abortion, for any reason, up to 7 MONTHS (28 weeks)!
- Abortions could be performed almost anywhere including schools and mobile abortion clinics
- Northern Ireland could become the LATE-TERM ABORTION capital of Europe
- Young girls will be able to get abortions without their parent’s consent
- Sex-selective abortion will be legalised
- There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved
- Disability-selective abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot will be introduced to Northern Ireland
- Legal abortion of twins – select one to live and one to die
- Babies born alive after abortion to be left to die
- Legalised partial-birth abortions
- No pain relief be given to babies during abortions
- Fast-tracked abortions: No consideration period for women
- No law to help prevent boyfriends from coercing a woman into having an abortion
- No conscientious objection protections in law for pro-life doctors who don’t want to perform abortions
- Private abortion clinics’ horrific history of abuses could likely be worse in NI with no legal restrictions
- More difficult to prosecute men who slip abortion pills into a woman’s food
- The State will have the authority to force women to have abortions
- No provision for independent counselling for women seeking abortion
- No requirement that statistics be kept
- Abortion on-demand would cost Northern Ireland £5 million a year
1. Late-term abortion, for any reason, up to 7 MONTHS (28 weeks)!
MPs and Peers voted to directly repeal Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act in Northern Ireland. Repealing this legislation will mean the only legal protection for unborn children remaining would be the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 which only applies from 28-weeks gestation.
That would mean that abortion would be available, on-demand, up to 28 weeks – which is 7 months gestation.
In other words, prior to 28-weeks there will be no law on abortion.
This will leave Northern Ireland with the most extreme abortion regimes in Europe and one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world.
It’s important to remember here that at 28-weeks babies are “perfectly formed” and more and more babies, born far earlier, are surviving! For babies born at 24 weeks there is now a 60% survival rate, and 27 weeks it is 89%.
A 28-week on demand, for any reason, abortion regime is very far out of line with any previous proposals in Northern Ireland, the most recent of which was to introduce abortion only for babies with life-limiting disabilities.
Not only is it way out of line with where Northern Ireland has in the past proposed change, it goes further than where most other European countries sit on this issue. The current median time limit for most abortions across EU countries is 12-weeks, and similarly across the border in the Republic of Ireland, post-referendum, abortion is restricted in most cases to 12-weeks gestation.
Even polling of the population England and Wales shows that only 1% there would want their current abortion time limit increased beyond 24-weeks. This demonstrates how truly extreme this proposal is.
The Government at Westminster have said that they will be bringing in regulations on 31st March 2020, but there has been no commitment at all from them to ensure that there will be primary legislation brought forward to introduce a legal time limit lower than 28-weeks. We have included more analysis of this situation here.
2. Abortions could be performed almost anywhere including schools and mobile abortion clinics
In England and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) currently restricts abortion to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State. This means that abortions are available in a limited number of locations. Without this legal safeguard, there would be no legislation in Northern Ireland governing where an abortion can be performed before 28 weeks.
In practice, it would be possible that:
- Manual vacuum aspiration abortions could be performed in school nurse clinics or abortion pills handed out by school nurses to pregnant girls.
- Abortions could be available in literally thousands of locations in communities across Northern Ireland including sexual health clinics, all GPs surgeries, school nurse clinics, pharmacies, university health clinics etc. This could also include abortions being available in mobile abortion clinics.
- There could be a surge in the building of new private abortion clinics throughout the province with Maries Stopes International and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service seeking to capitalise on the opening up of a major new market, without all the current legal safeguards they have to adhere to in England and Wales. The availability of very costly multi-day late-term abortions through to 28-weeks will be especially attractive to these private abortion providers as these will be high ticket services that could see high traffic from a number of overseas countries coming to Northern Ireland for these abortions.
- There will likely be a large increase in the ordering of abortion pills from unsafe online abortion providers. With the removal of legislation making it specifically illegal to use these pills, there will be less incentive to not order abortion pills online.
3. Northern Ireland could become the LATE-TERM ABORTION capital of Europe
With a median 12-week time limit for most abortions across EU countries, and with the grounds for late-term abortions often being very restrictive, Northern Ireland could become the late-term abortion capital of Europe.
With no law through to 28-weeks, abortions could be performed on any grounds up to this point. The change would potentially lead to significant numbers coming across the border for abortions from the Republic of Ireland where, post-referendum, abortion is restricted, in most cases, to 12 weeks gestation.
It is also possible that there would be traffic from a number of other countries in Europe.
In Victoria, Australia where, similarly, abortion was ‘decriminalised’ in 2008, this lead to the State becoming the late-term abortion capital of Australia.
Victorian MP Dr Rachel Carling-Jenkins, warned:
‘If Britain goes down this route, late abortions will triple, if not more. You will get abortion tourism flooding into the UK. That’s what we have here – people coming in from other states for late-term abortions. It’s become a huge industry.’ She added: ‘Don’t go down the path that Victoria has gone down. It’s a dark place that is scarily difficult to come back from.’
4. Young girls will be able to get abortions without their parent’s consent
Young girls, 15 years old and younger, could be taken by school nurses to private abortion clinics for abortions or a school nurse could perform a manual vacuum aspiration abortion on a child, without their parent’s consent. Abortion pills could also be given out at schools without parental knowledge and consent.
This would allow for the absurd situation where most schools would not allow a child to be given a Ibuprofen pill by a school nurse without a parent giving their consent, but at the same time there would be no legal restriction on that same school nurse performing an abortion on a child without her parent’s consent.
With no abortion law prior to 28 weeks there would also be no legal safeguards preventing third-parties taking children for abortions without their parent’s consent. This could possibly also include an adult who has sexually abused a child who has become pregnant and takes them for an abortion to help cover-up that they have been sexually abusing a child.
5. Sex-selective abortion will be legalised
There will be no law governing abortion during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy, in which case, sex-selective abortion would be readily available in Northern Ireland.
Sex-selective abortion usually targets baby girls due to a preference among certain parents and some cultures for having sons.
This is not speculation: this practice is already happening in other countries which have very permissive abortion laws. For example, abortion is available in Canada for any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy and as such, it has been described as a “haven” for parents wishing to have an abortion because their child is a girl.
There is also evidence of this practice in the UK and it is possible that a form of ‘abortion tourism’ will arise as people from other countries seek abortions on the basis of the sex of their child.
6. There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved
In England and Wales, the Abortion Act 1967 requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.
Even with this legal restriction in place, there are still many cases of complications during abortions in the UK, resulting in babies being born alive, women’s uterus’ being perforated or severe haemorrhaging that has resulted in death.
However, under this new law in NI, it would be possible that healthcare assistants, nurses and pharmacists will be able to take the leading role in the abortion process under the new abortion regime in Northern Ireland.
There would also be no specific abortion legislation stopping other third parties either providing abortion pills or undertaking a ‘backstreet abortion’ on women.
In 2013, Maria Caulfield MP described a similar failed attempt to remove doctors from the abortion process as “a charter for unsafe abortion practices, not dissimilar to the back-street abortions that the Abortion Act 1967 was supposedly meant to end.”
7. Disability-selective abortion of babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot will be introduced to Northern Ireland
If there is no law on abortion prior to 28-weeks this will legalise disability-selective abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.
In England and Wales – where abortion is available up until birth if a baby has a disability – people with disabilities are unjustly and disproportionately targeted by abortion legislation.
The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.
Northern Ireland has a very different approach. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than eliminating them.
This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome, in the same year, only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.
This very large discriminatory change was highlighted in two speeches by disabled peer Lord Shinkwin in the House of Lords when he was speaking against the proposed changes. One of these videos is featured below.
8. Legal abortion of twins – select one to live and one to die
In England and Wales in 2018, 111 ‘selective termination’ procedures were performed, where a twin, triplet or more were aborted in the womb.
This is often done to ‘reduce’ the number of babies in a pregnancy.
There would be no legal restrictions on this controversial type of abortion taking place in Northern Ireland.
9. Babies born alive after abortion to be left to die
With there being no law on abortion through to 28-weeks, there will be no legal requirement that babies born alive after an abortion are resuscitated or provided with medical assistance.
This is more common than many people think. In 2008, a UK report found that 66 infants were born alive after NHS terminations in one year. Half took more than an hour to die.
In Victoria, Australia where there is a similarly extreme abortion law, scores of babies were left to die after being removed alive during a number of ‘botched’ terminations, according to one official review.
The review reported that in 2011 there were 40 ‘terminations of pregnancy’ after 20 weeks ‘resulting in live birth’. While these figures are comparable in scale, Victoria’s population of 5.5 million is just a tenth of Britain’s.
This shows the scale of this problem in an environment where there are no legal safeguards around abortion.
10. Legalised partial-birth abortions
With no law before 28-weeks, there will be no legal restrictions on the types of abortion methods used to abort babies.
This could allow for the use of particularly gruesome abortion methods such intact dilation and extraction abortions (also knows as partial-birth abortions) and other controversial methods of abortion.
A ‘partial-birth’ abortion involves the following.
- Feticidal injection of digoxin or potassium chloride may be administered at the beginning of the procedure to allow for softening of the fetal bones.
- During the procedure, the fetus is removed in a breech position.
- If the baby’s skull is to large to fit through the birth canal, it is crushed to allow the skull to be removed. Decompression of the skull can be accomplished by incision and suction of the contents, or by using forceps.
11. No pain relief be given to babies during abortions
In England and Wales, the Department of Health has recently confirmed that pain relief is being given to babies with spina bifida undergoing surgery in the womb from 20-26 weeks.
With no law in Northern Ireland through to 28-weeks, there will be no legal requirement that babies undergoing a late-term abortion at the same gestation receive pain relief ahead of being aborted.
Bear in mind that many of these late-term abortions will have to be performed using a D&E procedure in which, according to RCOG, the ‘fetus is removed in fragments’. For some procedures babies will first receive an injection of potassium chloride to effectively induce a heart attack – it can take minutes to several hours to work according to abortion provider BPAS.
12. Fast-tracked abortions: No consideration period for women
In a number of European countries, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland there is a consideration period in place before an abortion can take place.
This period gives a woman who is considering an abortion more time to consider all of the options available to her.
In the event of this extreme regime becoming law, there would be no consideration period in place in Northern Ireland. This is especially concerning given the likelihood that private abortion providers – who have been accused by the Care Quality Commission of using high-pressure sales tactics to get women to undergo abortions and have also run ‘lunch-hour’ abortion services – will be ‘setting up’ shop in Northern Ireland.
13. No law to help prevent boyfriends from coercing a woman into having an abortion
Legal coercion protections provide a process to ensure that women are not under undue pressure from their partner, family, friends, or others to have an abortion. This is a sad reality in the context of the fact that for many women who have abortions, the procedure is the last thing which they actually want.
Legal coercion protections provide a process to ensure that women are not being coerced by their partner, family, friends, or others to have an abortion. The sad reality about abortion is that in some cases women who don’t want abortions are put under intense pressure to have one, with the people who should be supporting them using intimidation, threats and even driving them to the abortion clinic.
Without any law on abortion up to 28-weeks, there will not be any specific legal provisions in place to require those providing abortions to ensure that the women is not being coerced.
This is especially concerning given that there will also be no legal requirement that doctors are involved in the abortion process and there will be no legal restrictions on locations where abortions can take place.
Paired with a lack of legal coercion protections this could create an environment where it would much easier for third parties to coerce women into having an abortion.
14. No conscientious objection protections in law for pro-life doctors who don’t want to perform abortions
There is no current legal protection for medical professionals who conscientiously refuse to perform abortions in Northern Ireland, so doctors could be put in a position where they will be forced to perform an abortion, or risk losing their job.
Many doctors recognise that abortion is not healthcare, and that in their care of a pregnant woman they have two patients: mother and child.
Therefore, many doctors refuse to be involved in the abortion process. The abortion law in England and Wales specifies that doctors can conscientiously refuse to perform abortions and will not be professionally reprimanded for their refusal. But as said, this is not the case in Northern Ireland, and because of a law imposed on them by Westminster, doctors could find their careers in jeopardy.
There is already a serious shortage of GPs in Northern Ireland and forcing doctors to perform abortions will only make this crisis worse.
In other countries with extreme abortion laws, doctors who refuse to perform abortions, have found their careers on the line. In Victoria, Australia, in 2013, a doctor was disciplined and almost lost his job after he refused to refer a patient for a sex-selective abortion – because the child’s parents’ wanted a son.
15. Private abortion clinics’ horrific history of abuses could likely be worse in NI with no legal restrictions
Abortion providers, such as Maries Stopes International and the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, will likely seek to capitalise on the opening of a major new market without all the current legal safeguards they have to adhere to in England and Wales. There will likely see a surge in the building of new, private abortion clinics throughout the province.
These private abortion clinics in England and Wales have proven that they cannot be trusted. The following are just a few examples of when these clinics have been caught out:
- In August 2016, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) suspended some abortions at Marie Stopes for a month in August 2016 after inspectors “found dead foetuses lying in an open bin and staff trying to give a vulnerable, visibly distressed woman an abortion without her consent”.
- The December 2016 report showed doctors had been bulk-signing abortion consent forms, women were left at risk of infection, staff were not trained in how to respond to deteriorating patients and post-surgery safety checks were being completed before the surgery started. Issues have also been recorded at BPAS abortion clinics.
- In a damning report from 2017, inspectors found evidence of a policy at all 70 Marie Stopes clinics, which saw staff calling women who had decided against having an abortion to offer them another appointment. The report also outlined “doctors signing off consent forms in batches of 60 and failures to follow safety procedures.”
- An investigation by a national newspaper revealed that practices that concerned CQC inspectors are continuing at Marie Stopes clinics, with, for example, abortions being signed off by call centre workers with no medical training after discussions which were as short as 22 seconds.
- In 2012, a woman called Aisha Chithira, 32, bled to death in a taxi after having an abortion in Ealing Marie Stopes. A Marie Stopes doctor and two nurses were charged and then acquitted of gross negligence manslaughter.
If these kind of breaches in patient safety protocols are occurring under the current law in England and Wales, without any legal restriction on abortion through to 28-weeks, it is possible that the treatment of women by these abortion providers will be much worse.
16. More difficult to prosecute men who slip abortion pills into a woman’s food
In cases where, for example, a woman’s partner puts abortion pills in her food or drink without her knowledge, he can be prosecuted under sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA).
In order to introduce abortion to Northern Ireland, it is precisely these sections of the OAPA that MPs in Westminster voted to repeal. In which case, it will become more difficult to prosecute someone who engages in a non-consensual abortion of this kind.
For example, in 2008, a man was convicted under s. 58 of OAPA for putting abortion pills in his wife’s sandwich. Without sections 58 and 59 of OAPA, such prosecutions would be very difficult, if not impossible, to bring.
Even if they could be prosecuted under the poisoning offences (sections 23 and 24 of the OAPA) the maximum sentence, 5 years, would be lower than what is available under sections 58 and 59.
In any event, such alternative prosecutions fail to take into account that there are two victims of the poisoning/non-consensual abortion: the woman and her child.
17. The State will have the authority to force women to have abortions
In June, a woman in her early 20s with a learning disability was ordered by the Court of Protection in England to have an abortion against her will. This ruling was only overturned in a last-minute Court of Appeal decision which stopped doctors from performing an abortion – that was already underway – on a woman who wanted her baby.
In Northern Ireland, once the new regime is introduced, the State will be able to exercise this same draconian power over its citizens.
18. No provision for independent counselling for women seeking abortion
There will be no legal requirement that abortion providers – who benefit financially from providing an abortion – are not the ones providing ‘counselling’ to women seeking an abortion.
This is especially concerning given that one of the big abortion providers in England and Wales, Marie Stopes International, were accused by the Care Quality Commission of paying staff bonuses to increase abortion numbers.
It is clear that these providers can NOT be trusted to provide counselling that is not biased, but there would be no legal requirement mandating independent counselling to ensure that this conflict of interest would not occur.
19. No requirement that statistics be kept
The abortion statistics for England and Wales released every year reveal important information about the number of women seeking abortions, the geographic distribution of abortions across the region, as well the reasons for abortions and even the distribution of abortions by age and ethnicity.
This information helps us discover the reasons women are seeking abortions and the reasons why there might be a high prevalence in one region or age distribution rather than another. Knowing this, we are able to try to reduce the number of abortions and better help those seeking abortions by offering alternatives.
If the new abortion regime comes to Northern Ireland, there is currently no legal requirement to record this important data which can help saves the lives of mothers and their babies.
20. Abortion on-demand would cost Northern Ireland £5 million a year
The introduction of abortion to Northern Ireland will likely cost £5m a year – putting “strain” on an “already over-stretched health service”, a senior economist has warned.
Dr Esmond Birnie said amid the “big moral issues”, it would be “naive to forget a public expenditure cost” from the changes Parliament has proposed.
“This will strain the already over-stretched health service… this is money which will not be available to spend on mental health services or reducing waiting lists.”
72% of NHS abortions in England and Wales are now undertaken in the private sector and paid for by the taxpayer. The majority of these abortions are done by Marie Stopes and BPAS. These abortion providers will likely make huge financial gains as they exploit this new market, picking up more taxpayer money for their operations.
Conclusion – Stormont must return by October 21
100,000 lives have been saved over the past 52 years because Northern Ireland rejected the 1967 Abortion Act which is operative in the rest of the UK. This figure was confirmed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
Introducing abortion to the region will therefore likely mean that over the next 50 years, a similar number of people’s lives could be ended due to the new abortion regime that is set to come to Northern Ireland.
There is hope! All of these horrific changes to abortion law can be stopped if the Northern Ireland Assembly reconvenes by October 21 – even if it’s just for one day.
The race to save lives in Northern Ireland starts now. The people of Northern Ireland have twelve weeks and counting to secure the return of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Click the button below to email your MLAs/MP/party leaders now asking them to ensure that Stormont is reconvened by October 21.