Editorial: Pro life parade in Portadown is a challenge to another badly devised Stormont law - the outrageous limits on anti abortion protests

​​News Letter editorial on Saturday September 30 2023:
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There is a clamour for a return to Stormont, and Chris Heaton-Harris reiterates his plea for that in an essay we publish today, ahead of the Irish Sea border tomorrow.

Local government certainly has its merits, and yet the assembly does not have an impressive record. There is a total reluctance to take hard financial decisions, leading to gross inefficiencies in vital public services. And there is a herd-like rush into legislative measures that are of dubious value, if not positively harmful.

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This week we have reported on how the almost unanimous MLA backing for the Gillen proposals for handling sex trials, with the notable exception of Jim Allister, might make it impossible to report investigations against public figures such as Jimmy Savile if police issue charges in such a case (in fact NI politicians let an Irish leader, Simon Coveney, preside over a 2020 return-to-Stormont deal that included a commitment to consider Gillen).

Stormont has done somersaults when it comes to abortion. Only a few years ago there was overwhelming opposition to abortion, with reformers calling for legalisation of terminations only in extreme health situations. They denied they wanted abortion on demand.

Now NI has abortion on demand, implemented by London, but it also has outrageous limits on the right to protest outside centres where such grisly procedures take place. While there are strong arguments that a woman should be able to decide the fate of her own pregnancy, there are also good arguments that abortion is wrong, perhaps even evil.

The right to protest very close to an abortion facility should be carefully protected. But Stormont has enacted limit distances of 100m or more on such protests. The PSNI will warn a pro-life parade in Portadown tomorrow about those limits. We can only wish those protestors well in their demonstration.