'Deep disappoint' as MLA’s reject Givan bill

14.12.2021 | Moderator, Church in Society, Statements, Public Affairs

Speaking after MLAs voted by a very narrow majority this evening against the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill during its Consideration Stage at the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), Right Reverend Dr David Bruce, said that the rejection of the Bill ‘sends a profound message to society about the value that is placed on all human life.’

In a statement, Dr Bruce said, “We are deeply disappointed that this legislation was rejected by a very narrow majority of MLAs. The Bill sought to provide protection for children where there is a diagnosis of non-fatal disability before birth, including conditions like Down Syndrome. We recognise that today is a setback in realising parity of esteem and equality for unborn babies diagnosed with non-fatal disabilities, and protecting their rights as has been policy for political representatives here in the past.

Dr Bruce continued, “The decision by MLAs sends a profound message to society about the value that is placed on all human life. Within PCI we affirm that all human life has value and dignity, because of our belief that we are all made in the image of God. We believe that our worth and identify derives from this principle, rather than a subjective judgement about quality of life, and the ability to make a contribution to wider society.

“In giving evidence to the Health Committee one of our ministers, Rev Stephen Lowry, convener of PCI’s Disability Services Committee, and father of a child born with severe mental and physical disabilities, said the following:

I have been asked to share some lived experience as a parent of a child with a disability…We did not plan it. We did not choose it. If there is one thing that I want to express this morning to the Committee, it is that what is often seen as a tragedy is not. We think that it is, because disability cuts across the grain of our hopes for perfection. Disability can be seen as an intruder into how we expect our lives should be, or how we want our lives to be, but I have been asked to share my experience this morning, and my honest experience is as far from a tragedy as can be. My experience is not a tragedy; it is more of a love story.

The Moderator continued, “To provide abortion services to full-term on the grounds of non-fatal disability has the potential to create a culture where termination is considered to be an option ‘just in case’ quality of life is not as good as had been expected with a child without a disability.

We have vigorously opposed the imposition of abortion legislation by Westminster on Northern Ireland, as we believed at the time, as we continue to maintain today, that it would create the most extreme and liberal abortion regime anywhere in these islands. We are deeply saddened and disappointed that this continues to be the trajectory.”

You can read PCI's submission to the Health Committee here.

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