Baroness O’Loan quits top medical ethics committee over abortion

Baroness O'Loan had been appointed to the BMA committee in July
Baroness O'Loan had been appointed to the BMA committee in July

Former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan has resigned from a prestigious medical ethics committee over its support for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

Baroness O’Loan has said that she could not, in conscience, remain a member of the medical ethics committee of the British Medical Association (BMA) as a result of the stance.

Speaking on Sunday Sequence on Radio Ulster, she said she had been appointed to the committee in July, but was forced to step down after finding out the committee favoured extending the controversial 1967 act to Northern Ireland.

Mrs O’Loan said she found out about the stated policy of the BMA while reading papers for a meeting held in early December.

“I felt immediately that I had to step down,” she said.

She said in her role on the committee “the position is that there is no space for a dissenting decision”.

“Members are permitted to make their personal position clear after the BMA has published its policy but that’s ex post facto and that would have involved me as part of the committee that was saying, as it has said previously, that the Abortion Act should be extended to Northern Ireland. That in conscience I could not do.”

Mrs O’Loan added: “I believe that human life is sacred and I think there is nothing more fundamental than that.

“I think that the sanctity and the sacredness of human life from conception is something which is fundamental to my whole set of belief values so I could not go ahead to subscribe to any response which I knew would have to contain the previous policy of the BMA, which is the extension of the Abortion Act in all its terms to Northern Ireland.”

She said she will continue to “express my views on abortion in the House of Lords and I have already done so”.

She said in her position in the House of Lords she will continue to make public statements about abortion.

Meanwhile, a demonstration featuring an empty manger took place at the weekend outside the Marie Stopes clinic in central Belfast.

The facility, often described as a private abortion clinic, has been the subject of recurring protests since it was set up in 2012.

The demonstration from 4pm to 5pm on Saturday was led by the Stop Marie Stopes Campaign, and the group’s Alicea Brennan estimated that around 40 were there.

It was also met with a counter-demonstration by pro-abortion activists at the Great Victoria Street venue.

Mrs Brennan said the empty crib symbolised the “vacuum” left after abortion.

It is the third year they have held such a protest, and she said it was “on behalf of the unborn children who have died as a result of Marie Stopes”.