Friday 17th February 2017

The miracle of life for me has always been a source of great strength and wonder. I am the eldest brother of five siblings, a husband and proud father. I come from a very large and extended family, which has allowed me to experience many of the joys and sorrows associated with pregnancy, birth and sadly ill health and death. One of the greatest privileges that my wife and I have had in recent years is the experience of fostering young children. Some of the young people we have looked after came from the most difficult and sad experiences you could imagine. It has been our delight to, all be it for relatively short periods, love and care for these little ones at a time in their lives that they needed love, stability and protection from some of life’s ugly struggles.

When asked or challenged on my stance on abortion in Northern Ireland I nearly always caveat my response by saying that I am not comfortable with the terms “Pro Life” and “Pro-choice”. For me this makes the proponents on each side seem like they came to their position purely with options of Pro-Life or Pro-Death and secondly a Pro-choice or No-choice platform.

The sad reality for me in 2017 is that I fully believe that not enough is being done in our Care and Health sector to support and inform expectant mothers, not only through the pregnancy term but indeed through what can often be a traumatic post pregnancy phase. For some people the term Fatal Foetal abnormality has become the point that abortion should become available. In fact the term has still to be medically defined, and cannot be agreed by our best medical professionals (http://bit.ly/2kFbOWL). I know, and have from close experience with family and friends traveled a path where the news from a scan of the baby, has delivered a hammer blow of news that all is not good and that serious issues affect the unborn. These I have witnessed to be perhaps the most difficult times in the life of expectant parents and their families. The options and decisions can never be underestimated and as a man I can only imagine what a woman in these circumstances must be going through.

In instances of rape, which I view to be perhaps the most abhorrent crime of all, and having worked in the judicial system, believe that what needs to be addressed is the absolute determination to see sexual crime reduced to zero, perpetrators punished properly and steps taken to deter offense through empowerment of women and social education of our young people. Sadly through the wickedness of some, even very young girls have found themselves pregnant, and in these rare but extremely sad instances services and support does not extend far enough. I believe we need a re-focus on the crime and the criminal to ensure justice is meted out in its full power.

The legislation in Northern Ireland is certainly old, but I have no hesitation in saying that I oppose the implementation of the Abortion Act 1967. The full workings and reality of a move to adopt this position could see NI repeat the pattern of the mainland where it is claimed that 90% of Downs Syndrome pregnancies are aborted (http://bit.ly/2eEZV3E). More must be done to improve support, care and safety for women and pregnant women but any move to liberalise the legislation here must be done in such a way that considers the rights of the mother, wider family and unborn to life and life in its fullest capacity.