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Woman who was helped outside abortion clinic calls for MLAs to sign Petition of Concern that only needs one more signature to stop Bill

A woman was scheduled to have an abortion, but decided to not go ahead with the abortion after receiving help from pro-life volunteers outside an abortion clinic, is calling on MLAs to sign a Petition of Concern to stop a Bill that would criminalise offering support to women like her in Northern Ireland. This petition has already been signed by 29 MLAs and needs only one more signature to prevent the Bill from progressing further. A list of these MLAs who have signed the Petition of Concern can be found at the end of this article.

Right To Life UK is calling on people who live in Northern Ireland to make urgent contact with their MLAs asking them to sign the petition. They have launched a new tool that enables members of the public to contact MLAs today asking them to sign a Petition of Concern. This new tool includes an email to MLAs that outlines Alina’s story.

Alina’s story

Yesterday, Be Here For Me member, Alina Dulgheriu, called on MLAs to sign a Petition of Concern to ensure that the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill, which will be voted on today, is not passed in Stormont.

Recalling her own experience of receiving help outside an abortion clinic, she wrote: “I didn’t sleep the night before my appointment at Marie Stopes. Some would say I had “chosen” abortion. The truth is I didn’t choose it. I just didn’t seem to have any other option. My baby wouldn’t know her father. I had little in the way of financial or emotional support. I wanted to keep her, but I didn’t know how. What could I do? I saw on the abortion provider’s website that the clinic offered pre-abortion counselling. I called and asked for some help. “We only offer abortion,” came the glib reply”.

“The day that I turned up to my abortion appointment, a volunteer outside the clinic gave me a leaflet. It offered the help that I had been searching for. I weighed up the two options I had before me, and I chose motherhood. I chose to accept help to get housing, help to find a job and help to obtain a pram, a cot and nappies. It wasn’t easy. But with the support of the group who had given me that leaflet, I couldn’t be prouder of the life my daughter and I have charted out together”.

Reflecting on her own experience, and the experiences of the many women who have been helped, she highlighted the potential danger behind the proposed legislation. 

“Eleven years ago, I was single, abandoned, facing unemployment, and terrified when I discovered I was pregnant. On Tuesday, Stormont will vote on a bill in the name of “protecting” women who find themselves in my situation. The funny thing is, the voices of women like me rarely get a chance to be heard in relation to  what would actually help us. If the politicians at Stormont asked us if this legislation would actually help us, I think they would be very surprised at our answer”.   

“That bill, designed to prevent us from hearing about offers of support to continue our pregnancies, will shut down options open to women who find themselves in crisis. Such legislation would have been detrimental to the course of my life”. 

So many women have had to make an abortion appointment not through choice, but by pressure

Ms Dulgheriu went on to further explain the many sources of pressure a woman can experience when deciding whether to have an abortion.

She said: “The reality is that so many women like me have had to make an abortion appointment not through choice, but by pressure. A BBC poll last week showed that more than one in ten women have felt “coerced” into having an abortion. This could be at the hands of an unsupportive partner like mine; or parents, or friends telling women that there’s no way that they could ever handle motherhood”.

“In fact, coercion could stem from abortion providers too. Staff at a Marie Stopes facility raised concerns to the Care Quality Commission that “the pressurised environment and linking of KPIs to performance bonuses meant that there was a culture that worked against patient choice.” And that’s not to mention soft cultural pressure too. Female Irish pilots, for example, were told in 2019 that they could “either terminate your employment contract…or terminate your pregnancy.” So much for female empowerment”. 

Finally, she emphasised the need for this support, saying: “Now back on my feet, I pass on the favour by going back out on to the streets near abortion clinics to offer help to other women who want support. Don’t dismiss my case as a one-off. There are hundreds of women just like me who have benefited, both here in London where I live, and in Northern Ireland”. 

This Bill can be stopped if 30 MLAs sign a Petition of Concern.  

The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill was brought to Stormont by Clare Bailey MLA. The Bill would allow the introduction of censorship zones outside abortion clinics and hospitals offering abortions across Northern Ireland. This would make it a criminal offence to “influenc[e]… a… person [seeking an abortion], whether directly or indirectly” within “safe access zones”. The Bill would effectively criminalise offers of assistance in these censorship zones.

At Committee Stage of the Bill, a public consultation was undertaken on the Bill and only 13 of the 6,412 submissions from members of the public supported the Bill. Despite this overwhelming opposition from among the general public, the Committee decided to progress the Bill.

This Final Stage for this Bill will take place today, however this Bill can be stopped if 30 MLAs sign a Petition of Concern. Already, 29 MLAs (27 DUP MLAs, TUV MLA Jim Allister and Independent Unionist MLA Jim Wells) have voted against the Bill at every stage of its progress. If just one extra MLA joins these 29 MLAs to sign a Petition of Concern, the Bill will effectively not be able to proceed and will not become law.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robison, said: “Alina’s story is important. Not only does it voice the stories of so many women across the UK, but it also goes to disprove the narrative that many abortion lobbyists try to create”. 

“As Alina states, “you don’t have to disagree with abortion to see that simply offering alternatives should be legally permissible”. Let’s ensure that women can still access this help. Please follow this link and ask MLAs to stop this Bill today”.

Who has signed the Petition of Concern to Stop the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill?

MLAPartyConstituencySigned Petition of Concern?
Jim WellsIndependent UnionistSouth DownYES
Jim AllisterTUVNorth AntrimYES
Paula BradleyDUPBelfast NorthYES
Pam CameronDUPSouth AntrimYES
Thomas BuchananDUPWest TyroneYES
Robin NewtonDUPBelfast EastYES
Joanne BuntingDUPBelfast EastYES
William HumphreyDUPBelfast NorthYES
Edwin PootsDUPBelfast SouthYES
David HilditchDUPEast AntrimYES
Gordon LyonsDUPEast AntrimYES
George RobinsonDUPEast LondonderryYES
Maurice BradleyDUPEast LondonderryYES
Deborah ErskineDUPFermanagh and South TyroneYES
Gary MiddletonDUPFoyleYES
Paul GivanDUPLagan ValleyYES
Paul RankinDUPLagan ValleyYES
Keith BuchananDUPMid UlsterYES
William IrwinDUPNewry and ArmaghYES
Mervyn StoreyDUPNorth AntrimYES
Paul FrewDUPNorth AntrimYES
Alex EastonDUPNorth DownYES
Stephen DunneDUPNorth DownYES
Trevor ClarkeDUPSouth AntrimYES
Peter WeirDUPStrangfordYES
Harry HarveyDUPStrangfordYES
Michelle McIlveenDUPStrangfordYES
Jonathan BuckleyDUPUpper BannYES
Diane DoddsDUPUpper BannYES
Robbie ButlerUUPLagan ValleyNO
Dolores KellySDLPUpper BannNO
Chris LyttleAllianceBelfast EastNO
Sinéad BradleySDLPSouth DownNO
Daniel McCrossanSDLPWest TyroneNO
Rosemary BartonUUPFermanagh and South TyroneNO
Trevor LunnIndependentLagan ValleyNO
Claire SugdenIndependentEast LondonderryNO
Patsy McGloneSDLPMid UlsterNO
Mark DurkanSDLPFoyleNO
Robin SwannUUPNorth AntrimNO
Cara HunterSDLPEast LondonderryNO
Roy BeggsUUPEast AntrimNO
Stewart DicksonAllianceEast AntrimNO
Kellie ArmstrongAllianceStrangfordNO
Nichola MallonSDLPBelfast NorthNO
Matthew O’TooleSDLPBelfast SouthNO
Pat CatneySDLPLagan ValleyNO
Justin McNultySDLPNewry and ArmaghNO
Colin McGrathSDLPSouth DownNO
Sinead McLaughlinSDLPFoyleNO
Andy AllenUUPBelfast EastNO
Alan ChambersUUPNorth DownNO
Doug BeattieUUPUpper BannNO
John StewartUUPEast AntrimNO
Steve AikenUUPSouth AntrimNO
Mike NesbittUUPStrangfordNO
Gerry CarrollPeople Before Profit AllianceBelfast WestNO
Pat SheehanSinn FéinBelfast WestNO

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.