A number of pro-life MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their dismay that Westminster is continuing with its plans to impose an extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland.
The debate, which took place in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening, heard politicians rally in defence of unborn children, to respect devolution in Northern Ireland and to reverse Westminster’s extreme abortion regime imposed upon Northern Ireland.
Opening the debate, in place of Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, a Minister for Northern Ireland and Conservative MP Robin Walker said: “the Government are working towards the laying of regulations for a new legal framework for the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, as required by the 2019 Act.”
He confirmed the new framework will be in force by 31 March 2020.
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said she was deeply concerned by the width and breadth of the consultation raising concerns in her mind about possible changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland going much further than anticipated.
She added: “I am deeply concerned that the abortion framework that may be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office might go far beyond those three circumstances. For example, it may allow for access to abortion on request for any reason up to 12 weeks’ gestation, and then up to 24 weeks.”
Fiona Bruce also revealed that a number of clinicians in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned about their right to conscientiously object to engagement in abortion treatment procedures, and may not be given the same protections they have in England and Wales.
DUP MP Jim Shannon echoed Fiona Bruce’s concerns – that the proposed changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland go further than required, quoting the expert legal opinion of David Scoffield QC which stated:
“The question posed to me is essentially whether, if the… Secretary of State… determined to do no more than necessary to comply with his strict legal obligations under the 2019 Act, the proposals set out in the consultation go beyond this… I consider it to be relatively simple to conclude that the answer to this question is ‘yes’.”
Jim Shannon then asked the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider their “radical proposals”, saying they “constitute a clear political choice on the part of the NIO to undermine devolution to a greater extent than the 2017 to 2019 Parliament required…, which would effectively lead to abortion on request for any reason between 12 or 14 weeks’ and 22 or 24 weeks’ gestation.”
Under one of the proposed options being consulted on, abortion could be available for any reason, up to birth, for babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, club foot and other perceived disabilities.
Dr Lisa Cameron, who received hundreds of abusive messages and a threat of deselection for voting against imposing extreme abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, raised concerns from the Don’t Screen Us Out community, who are particularly concerned about the scope of the regulations and the impact on families with Down’s syndrome children.
“I hope that the Minister will comment on whether there has been consultation with that group [Don’t Screen Us Out], because, as I am sure the hon. Lady would agree, that would be very helpful.”
In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, DUP MP Carla Lockhart defended the right to life of unborn babies and called for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.
“I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ’No, mummy!’
“It is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, have published consultation proposals to introduce changes that go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament.”
However, Alliance MP Stephen Farry stated he was “content” that Westminster had ignored devolution and imposed extreme legislation on Northern Ireland.
Labour MP Tony Lloyd seemed to agree with the sentiment saying: “if the Assembly were to legislate contrary to the UK Government’s establishment of a process for safe and legal abortion, our efforts would have been futile.”
Closing the debate, Robin Walker, stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland, he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people, who I am happy to meet to try to address their concerns further, to ensure that we take this forward in the best possible way and in a way that is respectful of the concerns in the community in Northern Ireland and more widely.”
Carla Lockhart won the Northern Ireland seat of Upper Bann with a majority of over 8,000.
In her speech, Ms Lockhart said:
“I now move to the motion at hand, and particularly the report concerning abortion. I feel it is imperative that I speak on this to attempt again to highlight the anger, disappointment and frustration concerning the change in abortion laws that have been foisted upon the people of Northern Ireland. These changes came in the most roughshod way, with complete contempt for the devolved Administration and the views of the people of Northern Ireland. I want today to make the point to this House, on behalf of the many thousands of people across Northern Ireland who take a pro-life stance, that we want to repeal section 9 with immediate effect and allow for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate, discuss and evidence-gather on this emotive issue.
“The Secretary of State has not intervened to assist in our crumbling healthcare system, or to fairly reward our healthcare workers or to avert the mental health crisis we are facing. He hasn’t done that because, in his own words, he has said that these are ‘devolved issues’. Abortion was and should be a devolved matter, yet this House has imposed on Northern Ireland the most extreme measures of abortion anywhere across Europe.
“Northern Ireland has been a country that has always supported life-affirming laws. Back in 1967, our politicians said no to the ‘67 Abortion Act, and according to research conducted by Both Lives Matter, 100,000 people are alive today. England and Wales back then did support the Act, and as a result over 8 million babies have been aborted—three every minute, 23 every hour or 561 every day, and that’s only a small percentage of them being aborted on the grounds of sexual crime or fatal foetal abnormality.
“Great credence has been given to the CEDAW report and the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) mentioned the three instances. However, we believe that the abortion framework that looks likely to be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office will go far beyond allowing abortion on these grounds. It is my understanding that no consultation will take place on the legislative text of the regulations. With regard to abortion, it is well known that the detail of the text is crucial. The ask on that is that we, at least, as parliamentarians are consulted before the specific text is laid, and I welcome the Minister’s commitment to meet those Members who are concerned in that regard.
“In Northern Ireland, abortion on request for any reason will be legalised to the point at which a baby is ‘capable of being born alive’.
“This includes on the grounds of disability. I implore my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister to accede to the request to have section 9 repealed as part of the ongoing negotiations. The DUP are a pro-life party, but this actually crosses traditional boundaries and there is widespread cross-community support across Northern Ireland. We have an evolving political landscape, and I say let the people of Northern Ireland have their say on this matter.
“On this, Mr Speaker, I will bring my remarks to a close. I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ‘No, mummy!’ Mr Speaker, it is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, has published consultation proposals to introduce changes which go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament. If the Government wants to maintain any commitment to devolution, I would implore them to rethink their coach-and-horses approach to a life-and-death piece of legislation.”
Closing the debate, Conservative MP Robin Walker stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland, he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people.”
After the debate, Ms Lockhart posted on Facebook“This evening I had the honour of making my maiden speech as the MP for Upper Bann. Whilst I did take the time to highlight and showcase this great constituency I represent, it was also an opportunity to speak on the debate covering the introduction of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.
“I am unapologetically pro-life and look forward to challenging the Government on this alongside other pro-life members from across the House.”
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“It was hugely encouraging to see a new MP use her maiden speech to speak out so clearly about the right to life for the unborn.
“This is further evidence that supports our analysis which concludes that the make-up of the new parliament is significantly more pro-life than the previous one.
“We share in Ms Lockhart’s disappointment and frustration concerning the imposition of extreme abortion laws in Northern Ireland by a Government who claims to support the devolution settlement.
“We will support Carla and other MPs in their efforts to hold the Government to account on their words in regard to devolution, as doing so will help protect the lives of unborn babies in Northern Ireland.”
Over 100 health professionals have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Julian Smith, expressing concern over the new abortion framework for Northern Ireland.
It comes after the Northern Ireland Office’s consultation on the proposed abortion framework for the province, which goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, closed last night.
In July, MPs at Westminster voted to impose Europe’s most extreme abortion law on the country.
The introduction of the new abortion framework is proposed to take place on March 31st 2020. This will follow the current ‘limbo period’ in Northern Ireland, following the change in the law on October 22nd, where there is now no law protecting the unborn child through to 28-weeks.
During this ‘limbo period’, there is only limited guidance from the Government recommending how abortion access should be provided during this period.
Now, 135 GPs, nurses, midwives, radiographers, pharmacists and medical students argue that the document is deeply flawed in how it deals with rights of conscience.
Conscientious protections are just one of our 18 shocking facts about the Government’s proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland!
The healthcare professionals have written to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, saying they can no longer remain silent on the issue.
In their letter, seen by the Belfast Telegraph, the medics say the Secretary of State must understand the concern felt by people in Northern Ireland, not only about the imposition of the new framework but also its “ham-fisted, overreaching and unwanted nature”.
The letter states: “Many healthcare professionals entered their profession because they desired to protect and uphold life…Consequently, many object to any involvement in abortion provision which by its very nature involves the ending of human life.”
The signatories note that although the abortion framework does not require conscientious objectors to participate in abortion procedures in a “hands-on” capacity, healthcare professionals may find it equally problematic to be asked to undertake ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks involved with abortion procedures.
This mirrors current legislation in England and Wales, which doesn’t provide protection for medics who would choose not to participate in any tasks relating to an abortion procedure.
“Performing such tasks may be key to an abortion taking place and could lead to the professional in question feeling they are complicit in something they believe to be deeply wrong,” they added.
“It may be the case that some excellent healthcare professionals, who have given their lives to helping patients, feel they have no choice but to leave the profession they love if they are mandated to act in a way which is contrary to their conscience.”
They added: “The Northern Ireland health system is under enormous strain at the current time.
“Many hospitals and other healthcare facilities are struggling to find and retain staff.
“If this measure goes ahead as proposed in the consultation document, an additional barrier will be put up for staff who for understandable reasons conscientiously object to abortion.
“Such a move is unnecessary.
“The consultation document provides no evidence whatsoever as to the numbers of healthcare professionals who it is believed will object to providing abortion services.
“We urge the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider the position they are putting forward.
“It is possible to provide abortion services to all those who are seeking such services while respecting in a fulsome manner the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals.
“The value of life, the need to celebrate and accommodate conscientious objection, and the protection of the integrity of our democracy is too precious for us to remain silent,” the healthcare workers added.
The Government is running a consultation, which closes tonight at 11:45pm on (Monday 16 December), on a proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland which goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.
In many ways, the proposed framework also goes far beyond the existing law in England and Wales, scrapping many of the current legal safeguards provided by the Abortion Act in England and Wales.
For the Conservative Government to go beyond what is strictly necessary to comply with the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019, after it has repeatedly stated that it wishes to respect the devolution settlement and the people of Northern Ireland, is unacceptable and unnecessary.
This proposed abortion framework is a blatant attempt by the Government to further undermine the will of the people of Northern Ireland. It adds insult to injury after Westminster voted to impose new abortion laws on Northern Ireland and will likely lead to an even larger increase in the number of lives lost to abortion.
The introduction of the new framework is proposed to take place on March 31st 2020. This will follow the current ‘limbo period’ in Northern Ireland, following the change in the law on October 22, where there is now no law protecting the unborn child through to 28-weeks. During this ‘limbo period’, there is only limited guidance from the Government recommending how abortion access should be provided during this period.
This article highlights some of the key consequences of introducing the framework that has been proposed in the consultation document. It is vital that as many people as possible make a submission to the consultation to make it clear that there is very strong opposition to the proposed framework. Submissions close at 11:45pm on Monday 16 December. Further details on making a submission are available here.
1. Abortions could be performed almost anywhere including schools, mobile abortion clinics and through ‘Facetime’ consultations
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.
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.
There would be no legal restrictions on locations where abortions can take place (Section 2.6 – page 21).
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 approved locations.
Under the proposal being consulted on, abortion locations would not be limited in law to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State and it would be left to Northern Ireland Commissioners to decide where abortions could take place.
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 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.
‘Facetime abortions‘ where an abortion consultation happens over the phone or via Facetime/Skype could take place. The abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) would then be picked up from a pharmacy. There would nothing to stop abortion pills being taken at other locations such as schools, colleges etc, possibly under coercion from third-parties.
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 many of the current legal safeguards they have to adhere to in England and Wales.
2. There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved – health visitors, dieticians, art therapists and hearing aid dispensers could provide abortions
Any “registered healthcare professional” would be able to provide terminations (Section 2.5 – page 20).
In England and Wales, abortions can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner (doctor) and the Abortion Act 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.
Under the proposal being consulted on, there is no requirement that a doctor performs the abortion and no requirement for the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.
‘Any other registered healthcare professional’ could include healthcare assistants, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, health visitors, dieticians, art therapists and hearing aid dispensers.
In 2017, Maria Caulfield MP described a 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.”
3. Disability-selective abortion of babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot could be available up to birth
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.
Under one of the proposal options being consulted on, abortion for disabilities would be available through to birth when “The fetus if born would suffer a severe impairment, including a mental or physical disability which is likely to significantly limit either the length or quality of the child’s life”. (Section 2.3 – page 17).
In England and Wales, wording that has appeared similarly restrictive (‘that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’) has in practice allowed for 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.
4. Sex-selective abortion will be legalised
Sex-selective abortion would be available on-demand through to 12 or 14 weeks (Section 2.2 – page 13).
Abortion on-demand, without certification, through to 12 or 14 weeks would allow for sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand.
Additionally, there will be no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through 22 or 24 weeks.
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 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.
5. De-facto abortion on demand will be available through to either 22 or 24 weeks
Abortion would be available through to either 22 or 24 weeks ‘provided grounds similar to those in England and Wales are met in relation to mental wellbeing grounds’. (Section 2.2 – page 15).
In England and Wales, this wording has in practice allowed for de-facto abortion on demand.
De-facto abortion on demand to 22 or 24 weeks 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, but it also 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 where abortion is also restricted in most cases to 12-weeks gestation.
6. There will be limited conscientious objection protections in law for pro-life health professional who don’t want to perform abortions
Conscientious objection protections are provided but would operate in a very different environment (Section 2.8 – page 26).
The proposal appears to seek to mirror legislation in England and Wales which does not provide protection for healthcare professionals undertaking ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks involved with an abortion procedure.
The proposed framework allows for a far wider group of health professionals beyond doctors to be involved with providing terminations in a far wider number of locations.
This could mean that a far wider group of health professionals could be affected by the legislation and possibly involved in ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks where they are not provided protection.
7. 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 is no mention in the proposed framework of legal restrictions on this controversial type of abortion taking place in Northern Ireland.
8. 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 an 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.
The proposed framework does not mention the introduction of any specific legal safeguards to prevent third-parties from 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.
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.
In the proposed framework, there is no mention of a 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. The majority of those 66 babies took over 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 very few legal safeguards around abortion.
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.
In the proposed framework there is no mention of a legal restriction 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 too 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.
In the proposed framework there is no mention of a 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.
The proposed framework does not mention that there would be a 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 likely 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.
The proposed framework does not mention the introduction of any specific legal provisions 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 be much easier for third parties to coerce women into having an abortion.
14. 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”.
A December 2016 report revealed 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 many of the restrictions on abortions in place in Northern Ireland, it is possible that the treatment of women by these abortion providers will be much worse.
15. 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. It has now become more difficult to prosecute someone who engages in a non-consensual abortion of this kind.
The proposed framework does not mention the introduction of new provisions to ensure that the same protections provided by the OAPA in these circumstances are provided in the new framework.
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.
16. 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.
The proposed framework does not mention the introduction of any safeguards to prevent the State from being able to exercise this same draconian power over its citizens in Northern Ireland.
17. No provision for independent counselling for women seeking abortion
The proposed framework does not mention any 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.
18. Abortion on-demand will 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.
Save lives by responding now to the NI abortion law consultation – it only takes 30 seconds!
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