Election Diary: Six UUP candidates back 1967 Abortion Act

Pro-life campaigners claim that the 1967 Abortion Act is 'abortion on demand'
Pro-life campaigners claim that the 1967 Abortion Act is 'abortion on demand'

Six Ulster Unionist candidates have come out in favour of the complete extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland – while a much larger proportion of the party’s candidates support abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or incest.

Research by the Belfast Feminist Network (available online at https://goo.gl/AR4DRX) shows the level of support for the Great Britain system – what pro-life campaigners claim is ‘abortion on demand’ – across the 276 candidates standing for election.

The UUP candidates’ views are particularly interesting as the party takes no stance on the issue and several of the candidates are not believed to have before come out in favour of the 1967 legislation.

Those in favour of the law are: Chris McGimpsey, Rodney McCune, John Stewart, Julia Kee, Sam Nicholson and Philip Smith (though he would cut the threshold from 24 weeks to 22 or 20)

Three other candidates, Aaron Callan, Paul Michael and Chris Eisenstadt, said that they did not support the extension of the 1967 Act to the Province but were “open to debate” on the issue. Lagan Valley candidate, Jenny Palmer, said that she was “undecided” on the issue while North Down candidate Alan Chambers replied “no, but my position may change as I learn more”.

And Upper Bann candidate Doug Beattie said he would abstain in a vote on the exact 1967 Act as he would like to see the threshold cut from 24 weeks to 20 weeks.

However, the methodology of the survey means that DUP candidates have not been contacted individually but have all been marked down as opposing any change in the law – even though a handful of DUP candidates are believed to privately support some relaxation of the abortion law.

Charities warned off endorsing parties

The regulator which enforces charity legislation has warned charities that they must remain politically independent and must not engage in electoral campaigning.

Charities can lobby parties and some of them organise hustings events. However, going beyond this to advocate on behalf of a particular party or politician is against charity law.

Chief Charity Commissioner Tom McGrath said that while campaigning can be an effective way for a charity to support its purpose, “the guiding principle of charity law in terms of political activity is that charities should be, and be seen to be, independent of party politics”.

The commission has published advice on its website, www.charitycommissionni.org.uk.

Trophy Tory

West Tyrone Tory hopeful Roger Lomas has defended trophy hunting after an animal rights group criticised him for shooting an antelope in Africa. Mr Lomas told the Daily Mirror that he can’t understand “people living in the city” objecting to animals being killed, so long as they are eaten.

Upcoming hustings

lLagan Valley: Vineyard Church (Altona Business Park), April 26, 7.30pm. (Organised by Evangelical Alliance/CARE).

lNorth Antrim: The Braid, April 27, Ballymena, 7.30pm (Organised by trade union Unite, focused on employment).

lSouth Belfast: Agape Centre (238 Lisburn Road), April 27, 7.30pm. (Organised by ‘Challenges’, chaired by William Crawley).

lNorth Down: Kings Church Bangor (Seacliff Road), April 28, 7pm.