Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 5th June 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 5:13 pm, 5th June 2018

I thank my hon. Friend for her factual evidence.

It is my belief that a child is a child from conception, as can increasingly be seen through medical advances. A heartbeat can clearly be seen from three weeks. One lady in my office said, “If a doctor declares you dead when your heart stops beating, you must be declared alive whenever your heart is beating.” My opinion is determined by the women around me: women who are religious and those who are not; women who have grieved after losing a baby at 12 weeks; and women who have carried their babies full term—I know quite a lot who have done that.

My opinion is formed by the use of the Abortion Act on the mainland. The 1967 was enacted with conditions, rules and criteria, but the situation we ended up with was abortion on demand. What are the facts? In 2015, there were 697,852 live births and 185,824 abortions in England and Wales. For every three children born, one is aborted. If that is not abortion on demand, I need to know what is.

In the last 10 years in England and Wales, out of almost 2 million abortions, just four were recorded as being for the purpose of saving the mother’s life. The conditions in the Abortion Act are rightly there to protect young children, but have they done that? No, they have not. We have had approximately 50 abortions in Northern Ireland, so women can have an abortion in Northern Ireland if the conditions are met—two GPs have to agree that an abortion would protect the welfare, health and safety of an expectant mother. We have a system that works, and it is better than the legislation in the United Kingdom. It is better than the Republic of Ireland’s system, too. The Democratic Unionist party believes that both lives matter—the mother’s life and the child’s life—and, as my right hon. Friend Sammy Wilson said, 100,000 people are alive today because of that.

Owen Smith spoke about opinion polls, and there was the publication at the weekend of a national opinion poll that asked voters in Northern Ireland whether they supported abortion when a woman simply does not want the child. Only 34% said yes and 60% said no. There is no demand among the general public for abortion on demand, which Members would push through if they had the opportunity.

I am called to be a legislator, and I have to weigh up the number of the cases I mentioned against the number of those that abuse legislation as a means of birth control. I believe it is to the good of our nation to protect our babies in their mother’s womb and to support that woman. I believe it is wrong to ask doctors to take the life of a child within the womb. I believe that there is another way and we must advocate for that. I believe that the woman and her body matter, but so does the life of the child. Let us remember the child. People may disregard it, but let us not do so. I am not disregarding it and my party will not disregard it. Do not ask this place to impose on Northern Ireland a law that does not reflect the will of its elected representatives and, in my opinion, the overwhelming view of the people of every side of the political divide. Life is precious; both lives matter.