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Ethics – Both Lives Matter

March 2017

A report launched in January estimates that 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland (NI) today, because the 1967 Abortion Act was not implemented there.

Leading economist Dr Esmond Birnie said, ‘There is obviously no absolute certainty about what “an alternative Northern Ireland” would have looked like, if the 1967 abortion legislation had been applied here’. However, he commented that the report, named Both Lives Matter, makes plausible and cautious estimates about what might have happened.

The report examined the rates of abortion in Great Britain and used Scotland as its comparator, due to its low abortion rate and due to it being culturally more like NI. This led to an estimation of 163,760 abortions in NI.

The report then estimated the number of abortions carried out for Northern Irish women in England and Wales, based on UK Department of Health data. The difference between these figures led to the final figure of approximately 100,000.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan spoke of the need to be more focused on recognising and providing for the needs and care of both mother and child. She said, ‘Both Lives Matter is an excellent response to that pressing need’.

Dawn McAvoy of Both Lives Matter commented on the contrast between Northern Ireland and England and Wales, saying it was ‘stark’. She said, ‘[In England and Wales], one in three women by the age of 45 will have had an abortion, and for every four children born alive, one has been aborted. The act allows abortion up to birth for disability, and when Downs’ Syndrome is diagnosed in utero, nine out of 10 babies are aborted’.

Both Lives Matter considers the Northern Ireland abortion law to be progressive, compassionate and humane. Dawn McAvoy said, ‘It’s clear that law has shaped culture here and this careful balancing of both lives should be used as the model for other places’.

The Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland is one of the organisations involved in Both Lives Matter, a collaborative movement of individuals and organisations seeking to reframe the abortion debate in Northern Ireland. It advocates for better care in pregnancy crisis, and creating a culture that values each woman and her unborn child.

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