Belfast Newsletter, Platform
Often in Northern Ireland we think that what goes on between the big parties in Westminster doesn’t really concern us. And yet the decisions taken by the parties which have dominated British politics for generations can have enormous consequences on this Province and its people. Just recently we saw public outrage at David Cameron’s interview with Jeremy Paxman. And now the Labour leadership contest is underway, with potentially serious ramifications for Northern Ireland.
Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, just about got her required 33 nominations for the Labour leadership in before Wednesday’s lunchtime deadline. Ms. Abbott has, for the last two summers, spoke in the House of Commons advocating the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act in Northern Ireland. In July 2008, along with colleagues, she tabled an amendment to the Human Embryology Bill designed to bring the Province into line with the rest of the UK on this issue. If elected as Labour leader, it is highly likely that Ms. Abbott would seek to use her power to seek to extend the legislation to the Province, regardless of the devolution of justice powers. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of people here, including our elected representatives, do not wish to see abortion carried out here to the same scale that it is in Britain. Were she to not only win the leadership, but also a future General Election, the pressure on local politicians to adhere to her ideas could be immense.
Ms Abbott claims to be speaking for the women of Northern Ireland, but where are the politicians speaking for those women who are pressured into having abortions by their partners or families, and those who are suffering from stress after making such a decision? Who is standing up for those women who are lured into prostitution rings, for whom pregnancy holds such fear? The charity I work for, Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) deals first hand with women all over the UK who are not given adequate counsel either before, or after an abortion. The free, impartial, confidential advice we offer is an invaluable service for many women, but one which should be offered to women by their Government, not leaving them to seek it for themselves using Google.
Jeremy Gardiner is the Assembly and Development Officer for CARE in Northern Ireland (www.care.org.uk)