Marion gave this speech to both MPs in Westminster and in Stormont this week.
My name is Marion Woods and I am the Spokesperson for Life Northern Ireland, the regional hub of the national charity Life UK which is a pregnancy care charity working to provide women with positive life-affirming options to pregnancy crisis.
As a charity we provide a range of support services, depending on the needs and wants of our clients. Support and care services include counselling for crisis pregnancy and pregnancy loss, including post-abortion counselling, practical help and support, accommodation for homeless pregnant women and through this we have seen and experienced first-hand how in the majority of cases it is not the pregnancy that is the crisis for women but rather it is the external circumstances which a woman is facing, whilst she is pregnant, that is the crisis.
Dawn has already discussed our starting premise that because we know that in every pregnancy there are at least two lives in existence we believe that Both Lives Matter. As Dawn said, science and technology mean that we no longer have any reason to describe an unborn baby in the first trimester as a “clump of cells” – we know that the heart begins to beat at 3 weeks gestation and that fingers, toes, fingernails can be seen at 10 weeks gestation and at 12 weeks gestation, the end of the first trimester the unborn baby is fully formed and just needs the next two trimesters to grow bigger and stronger and ready for the world beyond the womb.
Groups advocating for liberal abortion legislation try to suggest that this tiny life growing inside it’s mother has no protection and organisations like Amnesty use phrases such as “international regulations” to try to justify their lack of regard for the unborn. However, our unborn children are protected – the European Convention of Human Rights states in Article 2 that we all have the Right to Life and the Preamble to the UNConvention on the Rights of the Child reiterates the words of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which states that “the child, by reason of his physical and moral immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth” – before as well as after birth.
In Northern Ireland both Health and Justice are devolved matters – this is something which the British Government has agreed and we call upon the Government to continue to respect that. Northern Ireland chose not to enact the 1967 Abortion Act and in recent times the people of Northern Ireland have continued to elect a majority of politicians who defend our current law on abortion.
Indeed, as our polling shows: 64% of people in NI, 66% of women in NI and 70% of 18 to 30 year olds think that changing Northern Ireland abortion law is a decision for Northern Ireland and its representatives, not MPs from elsewhere.
Dawn has already outlined our law and she has highlighted the findings that 100, 000 people are alive today in NI because we did not bring in the 1967 Act. And we do contrast that with the 1 abortion every 3 minutes that takes place in GB and which has resulted in nearly 9million lives being lost to abortion since 1967.
Those organisations, such as Amnesty, continue to talk about “trusting women” but what women do they trust? Do they trust Dawn? Do they trust Anne Scanlan of Life Charity or the many women in Life Charity, working to provide support and care services to those facing crisis pregnancy every day in the UK? Do they trust the women who are midwives who don’t agree with the stance taken by the Royal College of Midwives in relation to the decriminalisation campaign? Do they trust the vast majority of women in Northern Ireland who believe that Both Lives Matter? Do they trust me, a mother to 4 young girls, who were each protected by the law in Northern Ireland while growing inside me for 9 months each. I know I want my daughters to grow up with a law that will respect and protect the lives of their unborn children just as it did with them before they were born and as the Declaration in the Rights of the Child has stated. Or do they simply trust the echo chamber that they have created and in which they refuse to allow other women’s voices to be heard?
We want to walk with women and help them through their crisis but as a charity we can only do so much. We need more statutory services for women and families facing crisis pregnancy, especially in the areas of mental health and life-limiting conditions. We need care which is consistent across the health boards and we need focused pathways of care in even the most difficult of circumstances. Our law, as Dawn has outlined, protects both the woman and the unborn baby. Our law ensures that in the rare case that abortion does take place in NI it is focused on the impact of the woman’s health and well-being, physical and mental. It does not allow for abortion based on the child/ the child’s condition alone and this is crucial especially as those pushing for a law change are using and misusing the heartbreaking cases of babies diagnosed with life-limiting conditions as a means to liberalise abortion. This flies in the face of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which states that “Laws which explicitly allow for abortion on grounds of impairment violate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Art 4,5, 8). Even if the condition is considered fatal, there is still a decision to be made on the basis of impairment. Often it cannot be said if an impairment is fatal. Experience shows that assessments on impairment conditions are often false. Even if it is not false, the assessment perpetuates notions of stereotyping disability as incompatible with a good life”.
How can we as a nation on the one hand welcome those with disabilities and celebrate then during the Paralympics simply because they are born and wanted but on the other hand permit the aborting of babies with the same conditions simply because they are not yet born?
We will continue to speak out and to make our voices heard. It is not good enough that only one side of the story is pushed. We have a range of stories from women who want to share their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth and in a context where organisations pushing for liberal abortion laws want to shut these women down we will continue to provide that platform for them to be heard. Please go to www.bothlivesmatter.org to read these stories for yourselves. Don’t accept the one-sided narrative that is being pushed at the minute. The principles of educating, informing and equipping are at the heart of our work in Life NI and we encourage everyone to spend time finding out the facts about life before birth because facts matter.
Women deserve better than the cheap definition of equality that abortion is hailed as. Northern Ireland deserves better than having laws imposed on us by MPs with no democratic mandate to do so. We are proud that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and the unborn child. We call upon the Government to stand with women and implement more effective pathways of care and support for women and their unborn children in crisis pregnancies rather than pouring more money into abortion.