Assembly Members will break Good Friday Agreement if they vote to pass Abortion Access Bill
The SDLP, Sinn Fein, UUP and Alliance Party will break one of the key principles of the Good Friday Agreement if they vote to pass an Abortion Access Bill, says leading pro-life group Precious Life. The Good Friday Agreement upholds the right to expression of religion, but the Bill will criminalise anyone praying outside an abortion centre. The so-called ‘Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones)’ Bill was introduced by Green Party Leader Clare Bailey. The Bill reaches its Final Stage in the Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday 22 March), when MLAs will vote on whether to pass the Bill into law. Precious Life also called on Church Leaders in Northern Ireland to speak out against the Bill.The DUP and TUV have voted against the Bill through all its stages, warning that the “sweeping ...absolutist ...totalitarian” Bill will criminalise protest; is unnecessary with existing public order laws; and will result in protracted legal action.Precious Life, Spokesperson Bernadette Smyth said, “The SDLP, Sinn Fein, UUP and Alliance were all involved in negotiating and endorsing the Good Friday Agreement back in 1998. Now in 2022, they all still claim to support the Agreement. The SDLP say there is a legal and moral obligation to uphold the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. Their former leader John Hume was one of the main architects of the Good Friday Agreement, together with David Trimble, the former leader of the UUP. Sinn Féin give it their full support and say there is a collective duty on those who negotiated and endorsed the Good Friday Agreement to defend it and ensure its implementation. The Alliance Party said recently that any UK government restrictions on freedom to protest would undermine the Good Friday Agreement.“Yet all these Parties cherry-pick the Good Friday Agreement when it comes to the issue of this Abortion Access Zones Bill." She explained, “In its section affirming the Human Rights of everyone in Northern Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement states, ‘The parties affirm their commitment to the mutual respect, the civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community ...the parties affirm in particular ...the right to freedom and expression of religion’.“But this Abortion Zones Bill will deny the civil rights and religious liberties of anyone who prays outside an abortion centre.” Mrs Smyth added, “Clare Bailey claims her Bill will not stop people from praying. But her Bill will stop people praying outside an abortion centre. The Bill clearly states that its aim is to criminalise any action within 150 metres of an abortion centre, which may have the effect of influencing persons accessing the premises.“Any MLA who votes to pass this Bill will make a mockery of the Good Friday Agreement. Prayer Vigils outside abortion centres bring together members of the Nationalist and Unionist communities, who stand together in unity. But if this Bill is passed, they will be criminals for expressing their religious beliefs. “We call on all MLAs - regardless of their views on abortion - to oppose this Bill and uphold the Good Friday Agreement’s principle of freedom and expression of religion.”Bernadette Smyth concluded, “We also call on the Church Leaders in Northern Ireland to speak out and call on the Assembly to defend the rights of those in their congregations who express their religious faith by praying for mothers and unborn babies outside abortion centres.