Unionists more pro-life than nationalists: campaigner

Anti abortion protesters outside the new Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Anti abortion protesters outside the new Marie Stopes private clinic in Belfast. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A PRO-life campaigner has claimed that unionist politicians in Northern Ireland are more staunchly against abortion than their nationalist counterparts.

Liam Gibson from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children told Saturday’s TUV conference that the “only thing that kept the 1967 Abortion Act out of Northern Ireland during the years of direct rule was public opinion”.

But Mr Gibson said that now unionist politicians were, in his view, now “much, much stronger” in opposing abortion.

The campaigner said that he fears the issue is not as strongly a cross-community one as in the past, though he insisted that a clear majority of people in the Province still oppose extending the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

He said that the arrival of the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Belfast and other changes meant that there had never been “a more serious series of events coming one after the other”.

Mr Gibson acknowledged there was “deserving media coverage of the case of Savita Halappanavar”, the pregnant Indian woman who died in an Irish hospital after being refused an abortion.

But he claimed that the media was having a “feeding frenzy” on the “tragic” case even though it is not yet clear whether the Republic of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws played a part in her sudden death.

He said that the Republic of Ireland was “one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby — better than the United Kingdom”.

Meanwhile, the father of Mrs Halappanavar has made a direct appeal to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Grieving Andanappa Yalagi said that altering the legislation would “save the lives of so many women in the future”.

Mr Yalagi’s 31-year-old daughter was 17 weeks pregnant when she died at Galway University Hospital on October 28 after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia.

Her husband Praveen alleged his wife, who is a dentist, pleaded with doctors to perform a medical termination.

Doctors are said to have denied her requests because the foetus’s heartbeat was present — reportedly telling her: “This is a Catholic country.”

In an interview with the Observer, Mr Yalagi added his voice to a growing number of calls urging the Dublin government to reform complex abortion laws.

Addressing Mr Kenny, he said: “Sir, please change your law and take consideration of humanity.

“Please change the law on abortion, which will help to save the lives of so many women in the future.”

Mr Yalagi also called on the Indian government to take up the issue with their Irish counterparts.

“We want the government of India to put pressure on Ireland to change the law so that this cannot happen in the future,” he said.

Mr Yalagi revealed that he and his wife are considering legal action against the hospital and said that no health officials or anyone from the Irish government had been in touch with them to express any remorse.

Ireland’s ambassador to India met with government and opposition figures in New Delhi on Friday to ease concerns over the death.

The tragedy comes 20 years after a separate controversial abortion case split the country and two years since European judges called for clear direction on when a termination is legal.

The Galway-Roscommon University Hospitals Group and the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) national accident management team announced two separate investigations into Mrs Halappanavar’s death, which sent waves through the Irish parliament and caused a 2,000-strong protest on its doorstep when it emerged last week.

Chiefs at the hospital expect to finish its review within the next three months.

Meanwhile, a separate report from a 14-member expert group advising the Government on abortion - in the wake of the European Court of Human Rights ruling - landed on the health minister’s desk last week.

The Taoiseach said the Cabinet will examine the expert group’s findings before a response is given to the court judgment on or before November 30.