BY SINION CALDWELL
BRITAIN'S ABORTION laws could be extended to Northern Ireland as early as next year under reforms planned by politicians in Westminster.
The demand to impose the 1967 Abortion Act on the Province will feature among a list of key amendments which will tabled by pro-abortion MPs to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in February. The amendment states that the Act must be extended to "Northern Ireland to allow access to abortion commensurate with rights in the rest of the UK".
Both mainstream Catholic and Protestant MPs of Northern Ireland are united in their opposition to the deeply controversial law. The amendment will represent the first major attempt to introduce into Ireland a law under which 6.7 million abortions have been carried out on the British mainland in the last 40 years.
Northern Irish politicians have already promised fierce opposition to the move, which emerged for the first time this week during the launch of a massive campaign to lobby MPs to support the liberalisation of the Act.
Baroness Paisley of St George's, the wife of Dr Ian Paisley, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, told the House of Lords that "any attempt to impose the 1967 Act would be 'over our heads' and 'in spite of us' and the whole world would know it".
"Such behaviour flies in the face of the assurances given by successive governments that no change would be made to the law without the consent of the democratically elected representatives of Northern Ireland," Lady Paisley said.
"This is but the latest example of certain people trying to foist their ideas on the people from every background and tradition across Northern Ireland who have repeatedly and steadfastly shown their revulsion at the wholesale murder of unborn children.
"Northern Ireland will not be bullied by political activists whose ideas and actions have brought about the massacre of more than seven million innocent unborn children in the years that this Act has been in operation on the mainland."
She added: "At this time of renewed hope in Northern Ireland under the new system of government, it is extremely important that Westminster politicians should support it, bearing in mind the strong opposition to abortion in Northern Ireland."
The proposed amendments were also severely criticised by politicians in Britain.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, a Catholic, said: "You would imagine that in a country where 200,000 children are aborted annually we would be looking for ways to reduce the number not to make laws which will add to that number. To impose the law in Northern Ireland, against the wishes of its representatives is, obscene."
Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory Minister and a Catholic convert, said there was "mounting horror" at a rising abortion rate in Britain, one of the highest in western Europe. "Northern Ireland doesn't want the Abortion Act to be extended," she said. "Successive governments have taken the line that unless Northern Ireland asks for it there is no need to extend the Act there."
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is designed to bring British law up to date with scientific advances in the field of biotechnology.
It is deeply controversial, proposing, for instance, the legalisation of human-animal hybrids for research and the creation of so-called "saviour siblings" as tissue donors for sick children.
However, it offers the first opportunity in nearly two decades to amend the Abortion Act because it will reform the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Enibryology Act, under which the abortion laws were last amended.
This means that when the Bill reaches the Commons, MPs on both sides of the divide plan to table amendments, with pro-life MPs seeking an as yet unspecified reduction in the upper time limit for abortions of 24 weeks.
Besides seeking to extend the Act to Northern Ireland, pro-abortion MI's are planning to press for the legalisation of
abortion on demand in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, through the abolition of the requirement of two doctors' signatures.
An amendment for "suitably trained nurse practitioners to be allowed to carry out early medical and surgical abortions, in both the NHS and non-NHS sector" will also be tabled.
There is also an amendment to cover up the number of socalled "social" abortions by abolishing the need for detailed notification of the reasons given for abortions to the Department of Health and certification by doctors of all terminations carried out.
The pro-abortion amendments were contained in letters from Abortion Rights, the largest abortion political campaign group in Britain, to its supporters. The organisation is closely linked to the Labour Party and is funded by the trade union movement. It also works closely with the All Party Parliamentary ProChoice Group.
The letter, signed by Louise Hutchins, the group's campaign coordinator, asks supporters to lobby their MPs to support the amendments. "The time has come for a concerted effort to lobby MPs throughout the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill," she said in the letter. "Many Peers and MPs have not yet decided how to vote. They need to hear from pro-choice supporters urgently. You can help by writing directly to your MP today."