Foster dismisses Nazi abortion comparison

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

The DUP leader has distanced herself from comments by Jim Wells, in which he blamed Great Britain’s more liberal abortion regime for more deaths than the Holocaust.

Mr Wells, MLA for South Down and former health minister, said it is fair to compare the numbers of abortions carried out since the law was relaxed in Great Britain in 1967 to the numbers of people murdered in the Nazis’ Final Solution.

Speaking on the Nolan Show today, Mr Wells said 9.2 million people “have had their lives terminated through abortion in Britain” since 1967.

He added: “That is actually more than the number of lives murdered in the gas and concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald.”

The remarks come a week after top DUP members visited Israel to bolster ties with the region, with the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem among the locations on their itinerary.

Mrs Foster told UTV: “I think it’s the wrong use of language and again it brings us back to the fact that this is a very emotive issue and people need to be aware of that when they are discussing it.”

Mr Wells had the DUP whip withdrawn from him last month after publicly criticising some party members.

It is understood that only party officers – who meet weekly – can re-instate Mr Wells, but the DUP could give no indication when they might take a decision.

The controversy began when Mr Wells was taking part in a debate on the Nolan Show, and a commentator with an opposing view accused the DUP of characterising pro-choice voices as being “like the Nazis” and claiming there was “something worse than the Holocaust happening in England”.

Mr Wells replied: “I don’t think he’s too far wrong.”

He went on to quote the figure of 9.2m deaths and said: “It is a ghastly situation – we are killing human beings. These are sentient human beings who have every right to life, who have every right to be protected.”

He added: “I think the numbers are a fair comparison because these human beings have been killed.”

As well as saying she does not agree with Mr Wells’ choice of language, Mrs Foster was also asked about comments by DUP MP Sammy Wilson during Tuesday’s Westminster debate when he talked about aborted unborn children being “put in a bin”.

“This is hugely emotive subject and it is a very sensitive subject and I think everybody needs to bear that in mind when they are making comments,” Mrs Foster responded.

“That doesn’t take away from the fact that people feel very strongly about this on both sides of the argument.”

Abortion law was significantly relaxed thanks to the Abortion Act of 1967.

It permitted terminations if there is a risk of “injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family”, or if there is a substantial risk a child would be “seriously handicapped”.

The act never applied in Northern Ireland, where the law remains tighter.

According to a UK parliamentary briefing paper in late 2016, about 98% of all abortions in 2015 were done on the grounds that it would involve the risk of harm to the mother’s mental or physical health.

The remaining 2% were because of risk the child would be seriously handicapped.

According to official UK government data, there were just under 8,233,000 legal abortions in England and Wales from 1968 to 2016.