The guidance gives scant assurance for medics that their conscience rights will be protected.
By SPUC—the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children
The Secretary of State last night published guidance for medical professionals, which gives details of the horrific abortion regime to be imposed on Northern Ireland.
The report lays out what will happen in the “interim” period between October 21, when abortion will be decriminalised, and March 31, 2020, when regulations to introduce a new legal framework for abortion have to be brought forward.
The key points are:
- From October 22, no offence can be brought against a woman who has an abortion, or against health professionals who provide or assist in abortion
- Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 will be repealed, but section 25(1) of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 will remain in place. This makes it a criminal offence for anyone to assist or willfully act to ‘destroy the life of a child then capable of being born alive’, except where the purpose is to preserve the life of the mother ‘in good faith’. This Act states that a foetus with a gestational age of 28 weeks is presumed to be capable of being born alive. However, as is widely known, many children have been born before 28 weeks – even before 24 weeks – and survived.
- During the interim period, there are no plans for additional abortion services in Northern Ireland. Instead, the current situation, where women are sent to England for abortions, will continue. However, all travel, and where needed accommodation, will be funded for ALL women, instead of being subject to means testing.
- This scheme will remain in place after March 31, 2020, until the Government is “confident that service provision in Northern Ireland is available to meet women’s needs”.
- If a health professional does choose to offer an abortion service to women during the interim period, they should do so in line with their professional competence and guidance from their professional body.
- Consideration is being given to providing for conscientious objection in the new legal framework from the end of March 2020. “In the interim period, anyone who has a conscientious objection to abortion may want to raise this with their employer.”
- Buying and selling abortion pills online will remain unlawful without a prescription, as abortion pills are prescription only medication under medicine legislation. However, with the repeal of Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, there will be no offence for which a medical professional must report a woman who has purchased abortion pills online.
- If the Northern Ireland Executive has not been restored by 21 October 2019, the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act places a legal duty on the UK Government to implement all of the recommendations under paragraphs 85 and 86 in the 2018 United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) report (Annex C).
- A public consultation on a proposed legal framework for Northern Ireland will open on or shortly after 22 October 2019. Following analysis of the consultation responses, regulations will be laid to enact a new legal framework for abortion in Northern Ireland to come into force by 31 March 2020.
Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland political officer, said: “This guidance is truly appalling. It demonstrates just how ruthless the new abortion regime being imposed on Northern Ireland is likely to be. People should begin at once to protest against the introduction of this guidance if devolution is not restored by October 22.”
Mr Gibson added, “From that date children in the womb will have no statutory protection from abortion before they are capable of being born alive. There will there be no investigation of the use of illegal abortion drugs purchased online. Nor will there be criminal sanctions to protect women against unscrupulous abortion doctors.”
Mr. Gibson continued: “The guidance offers scant reassurance to nurses and midwives with a conscientious objection that they will be able to avoid all complicity in abortion and still advance in their profession.
“It also indicates the Secretary of State’s intention to make so-called comprehensive sexuality education, of the kind which has sparked protests in England, compulsory in secondary schools. This will, of course, include access to abortion for schoolgirls without their parent even being told. There are also worrying signs that pro-life outreach at abortion facilities will be prohibited.”
He concluded, “When the proposed public consultation is launched the pro-life people of Northern Ireland must object in the strongest possible terms about what is being imposed on them.”