Member of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland and pro-lifer, Christopher Stalford, died suddenly over the weekend.
The DUP MLA died at just 39. He had taken over the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill after Paul Givan MLA, who previously sponsored the Bill, became the First Minister in Northern Ireland.
Mr Stalford was principal deputy speaker and had represented South Belfast since 2016, having served previously as councillor, high sheriff of Belfast and deputy mayor.
He is survived by his wife Laura and four children.
A champion of the pro-life cause
Mr Stalford had been a strong pro-life politician, having voted for life on all 6 votes that occurred during his time in the Assembly. The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill, which Mr Stalford had sponsored, would have made abortion on the grounds of non-fatal disabilities, such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, illegal..
At one stage in the discussion with the Stormont health committee, he was highly critical of input from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) who he believed suggested “that the care of those people with disabilities is so difficult that doctors would rather not provide that care”.
He was especially concerned about the impact of the current abortion law on people with Down’s syndrome. The abortion law in Northern Ireland allows babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted up to birth.
In addition to his pro-life work, his colleagues and friends noted his wry humour, passion for politics and debate, and love for his wife and children.
DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley led a tearful tribute to her deceased colleague saying: “Christopher’s joy came not in holding office but in how he could use that office to improve the everyday lives of those he was honoured to represent”.
“It was a mark of the man that he had friends on all sides of this chamber”.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to Mr Stalford’s family for whom his untimely passing must come as a great shock. His contribution to the pro-life cause in particular should not be forgotten and we will continue this legacy fighting for the right to life for all people, born and unborn”.