Recent changes in U.K. politics have meant a renewed push against Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws, advocates say. “It is so incredibly important to lobby for life at this present point in time because of the stark threat to unborn children here as Northern Ireland faces a great deal of political instability,” said the Northern Ireland pro-life group Precious Life.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said that Northern Ireland is under pressure to change these laws. Foster said the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — her party, which became a key part of Northern Ireland’s governing coalition in the last U.K. elections — would do “everything in our power” to safeguard current laws.
Speaking to Youth for Life NI, Precious Life’s youth organization, she also discussed the need to improve perinatal hospice care.
Foster’s DUP is traditionally strongly Protestant and anti-Catholic, but also opposes abortion and same-sex marriage. According to the U.K. newspaper The Catholic Herald, the party has attracted support from some Catholics.
Unlike other parts of the U.K., Northern Ireland’s laws only permit abortion in cases where a woman’s life is at risk, or where there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health. The U.K.’s equalities minister Justine Greening has said that Northern Irish women who travel to England for abortions will be able to have them for free under the National Health Service.
Labour MP Stella Creasy of London, who was key in securing the free abortions, spoke at a Family Planning Association event in Northern Ireland Aug. 8. She has said she plans to push for funding the travel expenses of Northern Irish women seeking these abortions.
Precious Life’s Youth For Life NI group also met with leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Ulster Unionist Party, the other pro-life parties in Ireland. The lobbying effort aimed to remind them that “without the right to life, all other rights are meaningless,” Precious Life said. “Unborn children cannot speak for themselves so they need us to be their voice — it was vital that we made our voices heard unequivocally loud and clear to ensure that our politicians protect the right to life of all unborn children,” Precious Life said.
There is also a strong push to repeal the Republic of Ireland’s strongly pro-life Eighth Amendment of its national constitution.