If the DUP entering into a confidence and supply deal with the Conservative Party shows us anything, it is the depths of political ignorance within Great Britain about Northern Irish history and politics. Not only did few even know anything about the DUP, most were immediately happy to brand them ‘bigots’ based on little more than their willingness to speak about a deal with the Tories, their anti-abortion stance and unfounded claims that they are terrorist sympathisers.
Given this, we can now look forward to the UK Supreme Court similarly being branded bigots. As the Christian Institute note:
The lives of the unborn in Northern Ireland will continue to be protected from liberal abortion laws, following a victory in the UK Supreme Court.
The BBC report:
The Supreme Court challenge centred on the case of a Northern Ireland woman who became pregnant when she was 15.
She went to England with her mother for an abortion in a private clinic in 2012, at a cost of about £900…
…The mother and daughter took the case against UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who conceded that he had the power to make provisions for Northern Ireland residents to access free NHS abortions in England.
They claimed that it was “unlawful” that he had not done so.
Though the judges were ‘sharply divided’, the ruling stated that, under devolution, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were each responsible for providing free health services to those usually resident there. The judgement said the health secretary was acting ‘in line with this scheme for local decision-making’ and stated Hunt was right to uphold the ‘democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland not to fund abortion services’.
The BBC report belies UK law
In their report, the BBC state:
Northern Ireland’s abortion law is much stricter than the rest of the UK.
Terminations are only permitted if a woman’s life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.
How interesting that they deem this ‘much stricter’ than the rest of the UK when the law governing Great Britain states clearly:
Subject to the provisions of this section, a person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith –
(a) that the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family; or
(b) that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
(c) that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated
(d) 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.
How embarrassing for the BBC. They choose to describe Northern Ireland’s ‘much stricter’ abortion law in exactly the same words as the law governing the rest of the UK. Either the BBC are doing a dreadful job of even attempting to cover up their liberal bias or, more likely, they are simply stating the reality as we all know it. Few carrying out abortions in the UK take the law very seriously at all. Two doctors will routinely sign off on the procedure (sometimes one without even bothering to assess the situation at all) on the grounds that injury to ‘the mental health of the pregnant woman’ is ipso facto part and parcel of refusing an abortion.
NI abortion law has a democratic mandate
For all the talk of DUP bigots, all of the parties in Northern Ireland favour tighter restrictions than the rest of the UK. Only in 2015 did Sinn Fein alter its stance on abortion to permit terminations in the case of foetal abnormalities i.e. disability. That change, still considerably more conservative than the mainline Great British parties, led to the immediate resignation of Anne Brolly. The reason for this cross-party consensus is two-fold.
First, it is an obviously unifying issue between the Catholic and Protestant churches. The reformation was not fought over issues of when life begins and, as long as it has been an issue on the table altogether, Catholicism and Protestantism have been univocal in their agreement that life begins at conception. Whilst the two branches typically differ on the issue of intentional non-procreative sex, they are as one on the issue of when life begins and the rights of the unborn in the womb.
Second, as you would expect given the strong Catholic church and Protestant denominational lines on the issue, there is overwhelming cross-community support for the Northern Irish abortion laws as they currently stand. When the Northern Ireland Justice Department carried out a public consultation on relaxing the abortion laws in the region, 97% rejected any change in the law. Even the most cynical political party who cares nothing for community cohesion recognises they are on a hiding to nothing in seeking to change a law that has such overwhelming opposition from both communities.
This underlines the idiocy of those calling the DUP bigots over their abortion stance. All the major parties in Northern Ireland take a harder stance on abortion than the Great British parties. This is both for historic religious reasons as well as democratic electoral ones. Moreover, the abortion law itself in Northern Ireland is not ‘much stricter’ than in the rest of the UK, it is simply applied as stated. Ironically, in a place not renowned for its adherence to the rule of law, it puts Great Britain to shame on this issue.
Those insisting on relaxing the abortion law in Northern Ireland threaten the stability
As followers of this blog will know, I am a Labour Party members and Jeremy Corbyn supporter. As they will also know, I deplore his position on Northern Ireland (see here). His association with Sinn Fein/IRA is a blot on his otherwise clearly very principled career and his claim that he merely met with the IRA for peace is undercut by the utter absence of any such meetings with the UDA and UVF leadership. Not only did his meetings and association with the IRA do absolutely nothing to broker peace, if anything it prolonged any peace deal being reached as it undermined discussions with the democratically elected representatives of the two communities. As noted in a blog in the Spectator (worth reading in full):
Peace, even a qualified, messy, peace, only became possible when the IRA and Sinn Fein recognised they could not win. That was the only precondition for negotiations that really mattered, the only thing whose absence thwarted a settlement that could otherwise have been reached years before. The people who were waging the war had to realise they had lost. When they did, peace became plausible. At that point we could talk…
…Jeremy Corbyn didn’t help bring peace to Northern Ireland, he helped delay it by enabling those who bore primary responsibility for the violence.
Thankfully, the IRA did eventually concede they could not win, did decommission their weapons and vowed to pursue constitutional means via their political wing, Sinn Fein. This, unfortunately, was not with the help of Jeremy Corbyn.
Imagine my surprise, then, when – given the relative peace since 1998 and the the later 2006 power sharing agreement – to find Labour want to impose the Great British approach to abortion upon Northern Ireland. One of very few unifying issues in the region, between rival branches within Christendom, will jeopardise the peace in order to kill more children in utero and virtue signal to the world that they imposed right-thinking orthodoxy upon the Northern Irish savages. It is as though they have never read Gulliver’s Travels. The irony here is that the man who so vehemently advocated for Britain to hand the Falkland Islands over to Argentina on the grounds of anti-imperialism, wants to imperialistically impose a law on a region of the UK despite neither side wanting it nor the fact that the side Corbyn supported objects to imperialism from Britain in principle.
Not only is it foolish to believe that the DUP are bigots simply because they oppose relaxing the abortion laws – just like 97% of those who responded to a public consultation on the issue and all other parties in the region – it is destabilising to the region as a whole. The only thing worse for the region than a democratically elected party imposing a relaxation of a law with overwhelming support, would be the imposition and overruling of that law by a British party. Even the DUP, British to their core, object to Home Rule. Imperialistic imposition overruling a multilaterally agreed position is unlikely to serve the cause of peace. Given the falling rate of terminations carried out, as well as the falling rate of those seeking them on the British mainland, changing the abortion law in Northern Ireland for the sake of signalling the right virtues to the rest of the UK population seems a risk not even close to worth taking.