Every morning, just after I wake up, I have this lovely, floaty, peaceful feeling. My mind, still fuzzy from sleep, slowly attunes to my body, as my eyes open and I take in where I am. At this time of year it’s pretty dark in the mornings so I can’t see much, but I can hear birds chirping outside, and cars rumbling down the motorway in the distance.
It’s my favourite time of day, that limbo between waking and sleep, because in that moment I forget about the troubles and problems of yesterday, and what I may face in this new day. The world seems fresh and new and full of boundless possibilities.
This morning, however, I did not wake with this feeling. This morning, I woke suddenly, harshly, jerking into consciousness. My mind, normally calm at this time in the morning, was whirring and angry, full of questions and frustrations. I was waking to a world where, as of midnight, abortion was legal.
Northern Ireland had moved seismically, literally overnight, from a place of safety and care for the unborn, to hostility and danger for those in the womb.
How could our politicians have let it come to this?
Yesterday, the Stormont Assembly met for the first time in over 1000 days, after a recall petition issued last week gathered the 30 signatures it needed to be put to the speaker.
This move was unusual and unexpected, provoking a mixed response from both politicians and the press. Some questioned its timing, so close to the 21st October deadline, branding the recall as a political stunt. Others hailed it as bold move, a final political assault on Westminster to try and halt its imposition of abortion on us.
In reality, the meeting of the Assembly did nothing more than showcase the impotence of government here in Northern Ireland.
Due to our political situation, no legislation can be changed or passed without a cross-community consensus between the two main parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP. From the outset Sinn Fein made clear that they would not attend Monday’s meeting, thereby ruling out any cross-community agreement. No matter what the DUP brought forward, including its last-ditch attempt to circumvent procedure and introduce the Protection of the Unborn Child (Northern Ireland) Bill 2019 before the commencement of the meeting, there was no way of avoiding the inevitable liberalisation of abortion law.
Unfortunately, this complete political stalemate is not new to us. As a nation we are handcuffed to the past and bound along seemingly immovable political and religious lines. The charade enacted in Stormont yesterday is just another in a long list of disappointments when it comes to our elected leaders.
The difference this time, however, is that yesterday’s inability to reach an agreement has paved the way for tens of thousands of unborn lives to be lost, and for vulnerable women to be exploited.
At Life NI, it is a time of mourning for the good, right laws regarding abortion that we have lost. We are devastated that our politicians have failed us again, and heartbroken at the lives that won’t be lived because of this change in the law.
Yet Life NI goes on.
Even in the hours since this legislation has passed, we have had women approaching us for practical support and counselling in order to help them continue with their pregnancy. In the face of this tragedy, we can stand by women and offer them the support they deserve . . .