Pro-life petition ‘biggest ever’

DUP MLA Jim Wells (holding box) and Bernie Smyth (to his left) from Precious Life in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Belfast, surrounded by other DUP Assembly members and pro-life supporters.

DUP MLA Jim Wells (holding box) and Bernie Smyth (to his left) from Precious Life in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Belfast, surrounded by other DUP Assembly members and pro-life supporters.

Possibly the largest petition ever presented at the NI Assembly was delivered by DUP MLA Jim Wells yesterday, bearing the names of 300,000 people opposed to abortion.

This comes just one week after a petition with only 45,000 signatures calling for abortion law reform was presented to the Assembly by Amnesty International.

The petitions come ahead of the publication of the findings of a working group set up to examine the laws on abortion here in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said the proposals will be published early in the new year.

Pro-Life campaign group Precious Life told the News Letter their petition “clearly shows” the majority of people here do not wish to see the laws change.

Responding to reports that the working group would recommend a change in the laws here, Precious Life founder Bernadette Smyth said: “That working group took advice from a recent consultation that the previous Justice Minister David Ford held. The vast majority of submissions, 25,140 out of the 25,320 responses to the consultations, so 99%, opposed any change to the law.

“Who does this working group represent because they do not represent the people of Northern Ireland if their recommendation is going to be for a change in the law.

“Now we also have 300,000 people saying there should be no change to the law in any circumstance.

“This is a democratic issue in Northern Ireland.

“It is important that this is recognised as the voice of the people of Northern Ireland, regardless of the recommendations of working groups or anything else.”

Mr Wells told the Assembly: “I am presenting you with what I believe to be the largest petition ever received by the Northern Ireland Assembly – 300,000 signatures – not 45,000 – 300,000 signatures calling for the protection of unborn children in Northern Ireland.”

In response to Mr Wells’ remarks, Amnesty International pointed to the outcome of its recent survey which indicated 72% of people here wanted abortion permitted in cases of incest and rape and 67% in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.