Call for Northern Ireland abortion guidelines to be withdrawn
22 April 2009
Call for Northern Ireland abortion guidelines to be withdrawn Belfast, Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - Pro-life campaigners are calling on Mr Michael McGimpsey MLA, Northern Ireland's health minister, to withdraw the controversial guidelines on abortion issued by his department last month, and to have the matter looked at again by the Province's devolved government.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) says that the department's advice to doctors is so seriously flawed that it is in breach of the law and is warning that doctors who approve abortions on the basis on the guidelines could risk prosecution. In a letter setting out its concerns, the pro-life group has told the minister that, if he doesn't act immediately to address the issue, SPUC will have no choice but to seek a judicial review of the guidance.
Mrs Betty Gibson, SPUC's chairwoman in Northern Ireland, said: "Despite the claims that this guidance won't change the abortion law in Northern Ireland, it will radically alter clinical practice and undermine the statutory protection for children before birth. The approach adopted by the department regards abortion as just another medical service with administrative arrangements in each health trust area for the referral of women to designated hospitals where abortions are carried out as a matter of routine. In reality there is never any medical justification for deliberately killing a child before he or she is born. That's why abortion is a criminal offence in Northern Ireland and not a medical procedure. "We don't believe the Executive has been presented with all the facts of this matter so we are hoping that Mr McGimpsey will give his fellow ministers the opportunity to examine our concerns and the legal advice we have been given. I hope he will be reasonable and seek to avoid the unnecessary delay and expense of a judicial review. He should, however, be in no doubt of how serious this situation is. Women deserve better than abortion and we will do whatever is necessary to maintain Northern Ireland's legal protection for women and unborn children."