A short time ago we saw both good and bad news out of Northern Ireland. A Belfast court overturned a previous decision which had stated that Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws violate human rights. The same day, the British government announced plans to fund abortions for Northern Irish women who travel to England for the purpose of seeking abortion.
On Thursday, Belfast’s Court of Appeal overturned a previous decision which had found that Northern Ireland’s abortion restrictions violate the European Convention on Human Rights. The 2015 decision by the High Court in Belfast stated that Northern Ireland stood in breach of the Convention as its laws do not allow for abortion in cases of rape or fetal anomaly. Abortion is prohibited in Northern Ireland except in cases where there is serious risk to the health of the mother. Pro-abortion activists argue that such limitations on abortion constitute “torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.”
The case was appealed by the Justice Department of Northern Ireland and the attorney general, and the Court decided that the issue of abortion was not one for the courts but should be decided by the representatives of the people in the provincial assembly.
This win for the people of Northern Ireland was soon followed by the announcement that the British government would finance abortion tourism.
The British courts had previously ruled that the National Health Service could not fund abortions for Northern Irish women out of “respect” for the Northern Irish assembly. However, after a push by members of Parliament from both major parties, the government reversed that policy.
There are many issues to be unpacked in this complicated legal and moral muddle. However, one of the most glaring problems (aside from the major problem that abortion ends the life of an innocent child) is the lack of respect for the will of the people. In this depressing saga, this one sticky point is repeated over and over.
Northern Ireland, like the Irish Republic, is overwhelmingly pro-life. The representatives in the Assembly have repeatedly fought efforts to legalize abortion, and in their most recent election, the majority of voters chose pro-life candidates. However, activist groups from both Northern Ireland and overseas have spent enormous of amounts of time and money campaigning for abortion and have forced this issue onto the courts in an attempt to pry open the door to abortion in Ireland. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, an activist group that brought the initial case, has already vowed to bring the case all the way to the British Supreme Court in London.
This is an ongoing legal drama which will likely come before the courts again and again as the abortion lobby seeks to impose its agenda on another resistant populace.
Regarding the second story, the courts in England have decided to respect the stance taken by the Northern Irish Assembly and the laws of Northern Ireland. However, when it became politically expedient to fund and facilitate Northern Irish abortions, Theresa May’s government took that route, against the wishes of people who actually live in Northern Ireland.
On Saturday, 80,000 people marched in the annual All Ireland Rally for Life in Dublin. Citizens of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland came together to send the message that Ireland is better without abortion. The crowds were so vast that the speeches at the destination point had concluded before the tail end of the Rally had even been able to start marching.
The will of the people was on clear display. No matter how hard activist groups push it, the majority of the Irish people do not want abortion in their country. The danger lies in the fact that the abortion lobby continues to find ways to sabotage them – and that is truly injustice in action.
Nora Sullivan is Research Director at the Life Institute in Dublin, Ireland and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from University College Dublin and has extensive experience in pro-life research and policy work.