Clare Bailey: Govt must legislate on abortion reform in NI

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

I welcome the Irish Supreme Court’s ruling that paves the way for a referendum on removing the Eighth Amendment from the Republic’s Constitution, which means there are now no barriers to holding a referendum in May.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, recently acknowledged that Ireland already has abortion, just not safe abortion.

He has moved to support the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee on the Eighth Amendment allowing abortions up to 12 weeks after he listened to the full facts on the difficulties facing thousands of women who travel for termination each year.

Also on the Isle of Man there are legislative moves to change abortion legislation.

Indeed, the Reverend Monsignor John Devine, Dean of the Catholic Church in the Isle of Man, has written to the Chief Minister about his views.

‘Speaking from over 40 years’ experience as a priest, working as a chaplain in at least four different hospitals, I have learned that every abortion is an act of desperation’, he has said.

He also stated that ‘People who have abortions are not murderers and are not bad people’, and that ‘The Catholic church wishes to be supportive of those who find themselves contemplating an abortion whatever decision they take.’

He continued ‘Our search to find the truth can never be about making the rest of the world wrong so that we have the satisfaction of being right. Similarly, politicians proposing changes to legislation on abortion are not bad people either but individuals attempting to do what is right. The Catholic Church has a poor track record on sexual morality (e.g. child sexual abuse, and the treatment of unmarried mothers).’

I very much welcome his comments from a priest who has practical experience of women in crisis pregnancies.

With the UK All Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health releasing its report on International Women’s Day and calling for decriminalisation of abortion in the UK, it is now time that we follow suit in Northern Ireland, listen to the stories of our citizens and take real action to tackle our terrible record on reproductive health.

These women desperately need an end to the violation of their human rights which the CEDAW committee reported on last month.

The report damned the abortion law here saying the ban ‘constitutes violence that may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’.

I am calling on the UK government to legislate on abortion law reform in the absence of a functioning Assembly

Clare Bailey. MLA, Green Party, South Belfast