Roe Vs Wade abortion ruling: Shockwave of court move hits Northern Ireland as Ian Paisley says 1973 case led to 62 million baby deaths
A landmark decision by the US Supreme Court to end the constitutional right to have abortions has caused global shockwaves – including in Northern Ireland.
The decision today – by seven votes to two – came as a result of the conservative majority of judges in the Supreme Court overturning the landmark 1973 legal case Roe v Wade, which essentially guaranteed a nationwide right to terminations.
The new ruling puts responsibility for abortion law into the hands of elected politicians in the US’ 50 states – and is expected to pave the way for restrictions on abortion in roughly half of those.
Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland deputy director Grainne Teggart, who has been to the forefront of the successful campaign to liberalise abortion here, described the US court’s decision “shameful” and “a devastating blow to women’s rights”.
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She added: “This rights rollback is a painful reminder of the fragility of progress and why the fight to protect access to abortion healthcare never stops.”
Alliance for Choice Derry responded by offering online “abortion pills training” and said: “Abortion rights are human, reproductive and community rights.
“We will not go back and we will not comply. We send solidarity to all our siblings in the US...
“F*** the laws – we do what is right... What the courts decide can be overturned on the streets.”
In 2019 MPs voted to decriminalise abortion in NI over the heads of MLAs in Stormont – but whilst abortions are happening in the Province, delivery is ad hoc because they are not being co-ordinated centrally by Robin Swann’s health department.
Dawn McEvoy, co-founder of pro-life group Both Lives Matter, said of the ruling: “We believe it is a public good.
“Roe vs Wade falsely created a legal right to terminate the pre-born human being.
“An ideology bled out from America across the world that devalued the unborn child in law and culture.
“We hope that this will be the beginning of a gradual unravelling of the pro-choice ideology that has become woven into culture and law globally for 50 years as a result of Roe vs Wade.”
Dawn McEvoy continued: “Progressive politics for the new century should be the rehumanisation of the unborn child and the revaluation of both lives in pregnancy and beyond – practical support for women with crisis pregnancies, as opposed to the default position of abortion for all.”
The US decision was the culmination of decades of efforts by abortion opponents, made possible by an emboldened right side of the court that has been fortified by three appointees of former US President Donald Trump.
Supreme Court Justice Alito, in the final opinion issued on Friday, wrote that Roe and Planned Parenthood v Casey, the 1992 decision that re-affirmed the right to abortion, was wrong the day it was decided and must be overturned.
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he said.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”
Authority to regulate abortion rests with politicians, not the courts, he wrote.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the US Supreme Court decision as a “big step backwards”.
He told reporters at a press conference in Kigali, Rwanda: “I’ve always believed in a woman’s right to choose.”
US President Joe Biden said “it’s a sad day for the court and the country”.
He added: “Now with Roe gone, let’s be very clear, the health and life of women across this nation are now at risk.”
A recent Gallup poll in the US found 55% of people identitied as pro-choice and 39% pro-life, with 58% opposing the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs Wade.
DUP MP Ian Paisley has said the Supreme Court decision stands in contrast to NI pressing ahead with “the most liberal abortion laws in Europe”.
He added: “On Thursday in parliament I voted against the Secretary of State’s provisions to liberalise our abortion laws.
“The NIO is now running the Department of Health in Northern Ireland without a squeak of protest from officials, ministers or many media.
“In the same week, the USA has overturned the 1973 abortion legislation Roe v Wade.
“That decision sees the overturning of an unjust law that has led to the deaths of over 62 million babies since 1973.”
The NI Department of Health estimates over 3,000 abortions have taken place here since March 2020, when liberalisation of abortion took effect.
There were almost 220,000 abortions in England and Wales last year, by far the highest number since the 1967 Abortion Act was introduced.
The government said that “very few” – only 111 cases – were taken to prevent the death of the mother or “grave” permanent physical or mental injury to her.
Only 1.6% were due to the “substantial risk” of “serious” handicap to the child.
Around 98% were due to concerns, on balance, of any risk of physical or mental injury to the mother, which some pro-life critics interpret as “social reasons”.