Abortion Act has led to more than 8 million terminations

Both Lives Matter graphic
Both Lives Matter graphic

On 27th October 1967, the Abortion Act received royal assent.

It was introduced by David Steel as a Private Members Bill, but was backed by the government, and allowed abortion up to 28 weeks gestation, (the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 reduced this to 24 weeks).

Dawn McAvoy, spokesperson for Both Lives Matter

Dawn McAvoy, spokesperson for Both Lives Matter

Since then there have been more than eight million abortions, equating to more than the population of Scotland and Northern Ireland combined.

By the age of 45, one in three women will have had an abortion and for every four children born alive, one has been aborted.

The act allows abortion up to birth for disability and when Downs’ Syndrome is diagnosed in utero, nine out of ten babies are aborted.

Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound progressive. It doesn’t sound like the very best our community can offer to one out of three women and one out of four children. It seems like abortion allows the systemic and underlying issues which lead to pregnancy crisis and unwanted pregnancies to persist.

Especially when you consider that thirty seven per cent of the 180,000 abortions last year were repeat abortions - for women who had already had at least one abortion.

There is a better way.

Those of us who are pro-life have not always put our case very well.

There has been so much focus on the unborn child you could forget anyone else was involved.

This frustrated me as a women and as a mother.

Abortion has also been portrayed as a religious issue – those of faith are against abortion and those of no faith are pro-choice.

But groups like Feminists for Life and Atheists For 8th undermine these simple distortions.

There are lots of women and people of all faiths and none who support our current laws on abortion.

In response a number of us founded Both Lives Matter, a collaborative movement of individuals and organisations seeking to reframe the abortion debate in Northern Ireland.

We wish to safeguard the current law here which protects both lives as far as possible – legally holding together the life, health and humanity of women and children.

This reflects the simple biological reality that two lives are involved in each pregnancy. In a ‘post-truth’ world it is important that we don’t lose sight of this fact.

We don’t want to pit a mother against her child, but instead work for a solution that honours both. We know, often from experience, that many pregnancies are difficult for a variety of reasons.

Abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women.

We have reached the point where some people even confuse compassion with abortion. We hope that Northern Ireland will not fall for the modern myth that progress on women’s rights should be measured by their ability to end the life of their own children.

Human dignity and worth should not depend on whether you are wanted - imagine the consequences of that logic.

The Northern Irish are known the world over for our generosity and hospitality. Let’s embrace future generations with this generous hospitality by protecting and enabling every women and child.

Fifty years on the experiment attempted in GB has had tragic consequences. This is a difficult and sensitive area, but it is time to reframe the conversation, if for no other reason than both lives matter.

• Dawn McAvoy is a spokesperson for Both Lives Matter