100,000+ NI people have current law to thank for them being alive

Supporters of liberalising NI abortion law, pictured in Belfast in 2018
Supporters of liberalising NI abortion law, pictured in Belfast in 2018
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If the Creasy and McGinn amendments become legislation applying to Northern Ireland – still a big “if” – this will represent a massive change. A change not for the good.

The parameters of the 1999 devolution settlement will be shifted.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

More importantly, there will be a change in the way we live.

But before those changes actually happen it is worth carefully considering what has been the impact of Northern Ireland’s existing legislation.

Regarding the absence of the 1967 Abortion Act, it is possible to estimate how many abortions would have occurred in Northern Ireland during 1968-2018 if we had had the same abortion rate as England and Wales or, alternatively, Scotland (adjusting down for the number of women from Northern Ireland who travelled to Great Britain to get an abortion in that jurisdiction).

The total number of abortions avoided over the last half century is at least 100,000: that is 100,000 people, almost all of whom would still be alive today, who would not be here if Northern Ireland had copied GB’s abortion law.

Note that figure is an estimate, based on “counterfactuals” (what would have happened if…).

That said, it is a reasonable estimate and the robustness of the research method used by Both Lives Matter has been confirmed by an independent statistician commissioned by the Advertising Standards Agency.

Regarding the absence of so-called “equal marriage”, contrary to a lobby of some parts of business, little evidence that this has reduced investment into Northern Ireland.

Some big corporates may want to “virtue signal”, but Northern Ireland’s particular legislation on the gay and abortion issues would be just one item on a probably very long list of factors determining the attractiveness of the location. Northern Ireland’s inward investment rates have generally exceeded the UK average in recent years.

Dr Esmond Birnie, Belfast BT10, Ex-UUP MLA and former chief economist of PWC in Northern Ireland