Northern Ireland “should not be bullied into accepting abortion on demand,” DUP MP Ian Paisley has said.
Following a referendum victory for the ‘Yes’ campaign in the Republic of Ireland – which will remove the constitution’s 8th amendment ban on terminations – a number of influential MPs and political commentators have called for Northern Ireland to fall into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.
At present, abortions can only be carried out in the province if a woman’s life is deemed to be at risk, or if there is a risk of permanent damage to her mental or physical health.
The law does not automatically permit terminations in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.
Mr Paisley said: “Northern Ireland should not be bullied into accepting abortion on demand.
“Northern Ireland did not have a constitutional imperative on abortion –it is governed by laws that can be changed. The settled will of the people has been to afford protections to the unborn life and protect the life of the mother.”
The North Antrim MP also took issue with a number of commentators celebrating the result on Twitter.
In response to one, he said: “I notice the mad rush by some commentators to try to push Northern Ireland into a comparison on this as if the law in the Republic of Ireland was remotely comparable to the laws and processes that govern NI.
“It is sad when the unborn life is to be treated with such casual regard.”
To another, who branded the abortion laws in Northern Ireland as some of the “most socially regressive” in western Europe, he said: “I would expect such foaming at the mouth idiocy from these quarters. Northern Ireland laws are made by Parliament and the Assembly. On abortion, Northern Ireland has had a settled cross party view on this for decades. Nothing suggests it has changed.”
Ministers in the Republic will now draft legislation to allow terminations to take place within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, subject to medical advice and a ‘cooling off’ period, as well as making provision for terminations between 12 and 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the referendum result represented “the culmination of a quiet revolution”, one that had been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 to 20 years, and added: “We are a country that is not divided, a country that says that we respect women, that we trust women and we support them.”
The campaign to liberalise the Republic’s abortion laws intensified in 2012 after dentist Savita Halappanavar died in a Galway hospital in Galway.
The 31-year-old became critically ill when she was refused an abortion during a miscarriage.
Mr Paisley’s wife Fiona also sparked a fierce debate on Twitter when she tweeted the message: “I’m sorry but there is something very disturbing and sad about a crowd celebrating the abortion of unwanted babies!!”
In response to someone who pointed out that the crowds were only “celebrating the fact that women won’t have to die unnecessarily,” Mrs Paisley responded: “There is a small percentage of women who fall into that category and of course they are the priority. I am referring to the larger percentage of unwanted healthy pregnancies.”
DUP MLA Jim Wells has also expressed his disappointment at what he called “an extremely worrying development for the protection of the unborn child in Northern Ireland”.
Mr Wells said: ‘It is inevitable that the abortion industry based in Great Britain will set up clinics in border towns and promote their services to Northern Ireland women.
“It will be much easier to terminate a child’s life if this can be done at a clinic in Dundalk or Letterkenny rather than flying to London or Manchester.”
Peter Lynas of Evangelical Alliance said Northern Ireland will remain defiant in the face of pressure to relax abortion laws.
“When it comes the human dignity of the unborn we remain a beacon of hope in Northern Ireland and as the world around grows darker, that beacon will grow brighter,” he said.
The ‘Save the 8th’ campaign responded to the poll defeat saying: “What Irish voters did yesterday is a tragedy of historic proportions. However, a wrong does not become right simply because a majority support it.”