An open letter

We the undersigned wish to make known our opposition to the imminent introduction of abortion in Northern Ireland. We are a group of doctors, nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers who are deeply concerned about these changes and wish to have our concern noted publicly. Our concern throughout is for pregnant mothers and their unborn children. We wish to protest and speak out for the following reasons, as our consciences demand that we not be silent:

  1. It is well recognised and accepted scientifically that fertilisation of an egg brings about a new human life. This individual bears a new and permanent genetic code throughout their life, until his or her death. It is strongly held throughout the Western world that this human life is valuable and precious from conception, through birth, life and unto death, independent of that person’s health, ability, race, sex or religious beliefs. This has also been the opinion of the vast majority of the health professions for as long as these professions have been recognised, until very recently, and remains the strongly held opinion of many of us at the present time. It is this position which enables us to excel in our work, and to treat our patients with true compassion, alleviating suffering and working for health from the earliest moment that life is recognised, until the final moment when it fails. The concept of taking a human life at any stage is inimical to us, and the concept of taking a human life in the womb especially so.
  2. We believe that the best possible form of care for pregnant mothers and their unborn children is compassion and provision, best supplied within the supportive network of a family and a community, with the minimal medical input necessary to monitor and reassure. When things go wrong, we want speedy and professional care. We would appeal to our politicians to actively promote strong families and strong communities, and to enact policies which would provide stable homes in which to raise children; we also appeal for adequate funding for community and hospital based obstetrics services. The evidence throughout the UK over the past decades has been that societal reasons are by far the leading cause of abortion – using medical means to deal with societal problems does not work, has been shown not to work by the huge increase in abortions, and should not be used. We accept that, in a vanishingly small group of patients, abortion may be needed to save the life of the mother – legislation already exists to this end, and the infrequency of its use speaks for itself. Abortion, on the whole, is an unnecessary medical act, performed on someone who is not sick, for the questionable benefits for a third person, to the detriment of the broader human society.
  3. As Christians we believe that the 6th Commandment is binding upon all of humanity – “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). It is the firmly held belief of many Christians in Northern Ireland that abortion is the unjust taking of human life – a violent act performed against creatures who are made in God’s image, in which He delights, and which therefore must be resisted by all lawful means.
  4. Abortion is an instrument of oppression aimed at the weakest and least represented members of the community. Firstly, the child in the womb has no voice and no choice. By however means they have been conceived, the very fact that they are alive should be enough to recognise their presence and their value. They have no say in their care, and need vocal advocates to speak up for them. Today, we are advocating for their precious lives. Secondly, the burden of abortion falls heavily on the poor, the underprivileged and on females. Instead of supporting and nurturing all people in spite of their social class and bank balance, our Government makes it easier for them to abort their unborn children. Instead of recognising children as being a blessing, male and female, sex selective abortion (officially or unofficially) destabilises the value of women and female children in our society.
  5. Healthcare in Northern Ireland is in a parlous state, due to chronic underfunding, understaffing, and the lack of a sitting Government. Imposing abortion on our healthcare system risks destabilising our GP service, many of whom are contemplating retiring. It risks demoralising our nursing service and radically altering the dynamic of our midwifery service. It risks burdening our hospitals with unnecessary procedures, extra complications, divisions within departments and lengthening of waiting lists – all of which will likely have a negative effect on the population of Northern Ireland who rely on healthcare services for medical problems.  Requiring the NHS in Northern Ireland to fund multiple medically unnecessary procedures will cause a significant drain on an already overstretched budget.
  6. For the UK government to impose de facto abortion on Northern Ireland without the express will of the populace as worked out through democratically elected representatives is to disrespect our country and to ride roughshod over the Governmental position that “abortion is a devolved matter”. The Governments of the various parts of the United Kingdom have already undermined the Northern Ireland position on abortion by actively courting our patients to attend abortion providers in their countries through the free and easy access to abortion services. In no other aspect of health care is such behaviour necessary, underlining the fact that this is an idealogicially driven decision, not based on healthcare needs. In addition, we are dismayed at the failure of our locally elected representatives to form a functioning Government, and we wish to hold them to account for that failure, and would appeal for all parties to return to Stormont as a matter of urgency.
  7. Much has been said about abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. While we do not want to minimise the pain and concern of mothers and fathers who find themselves in this awful position, we would raise a number of significant concerns. Firstly, diagnosis of illness within the womb is fraught with difficulty, as highlighed by the recent case in the Republic of Ireland in which a baby was aborted at the National Maternity Hospital because of a prenatal diagnosis of the chromosomal disorder Edwards Syndrome – the child was subsequently found out to be genetically normal, much to the dismay of the child’s parents. Secondly, we believe that in many cases it is more humane for the child to be delivered, even though they may live for only a few short hours or days; medical predictions of lifespan have sometimes been grossly underestimated in these cases. This short time with their child may well allow a family a few precious hours to hold their child, and will then allow them to properly grieve for the tragic loss of their baby. This highlights the need for compassionate perinatal hospice facilities in our country. We recognise that there is also valid difference of opinion amongst medical professionals in the most profound cases of foetal abnormality. Thirdly, the evidence from nations where abortion is allowed for foetal abnormality is that prenatal diagnosis is increasingly used to actively screen out minor and correctable abnormalities such as cleft palate and non fatal conditions such as Downs Syndrome. This is discrimination of the most abhorrent form against those of us with disabilities, who often have the potential to live full and joyful lives, bringing blessing to those around them and enriching the lives of those inside and outside of their family. Our concern is that legislation made for compassionate reasons is leveraged for ideological reasons, with the resulting ‘mission creep’ witnessed in a nation like Iceland, where nearly all children with Downs syndrome have been aborted – we believe a nation is poorer because of this.
  8. As Christian healthcare workers, we have deep compassion for women who have had abortions in the past, and recognise some of the circumstances and pressures that they may have faced which led them to this course of action. We recognise also that healthcare workers are also culpable in these acts, and bear responsibility for advice and actions surrounding abortions. We would appeal to our colleagues in the health care system in Northern Ireland to join with us in speaking out against abortion in our country, and beyond. We desire that those women who have been left with psychological wounds as a result of abortion would be able to access psychological therapies for healing, and we, as fellow sinners, would point them to Jesus Christ, the Great Physician – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).

The prevailing belief among Christian healthcare workers is that this legislation is harmful – harmful to the women it claims to empower; harmful to the workers whose right to conscientious objection is denied; and, most of all, fatal to the infant children who will be the silent victims of the most liberal abortion laws in Western Europe.

We appeal to the UK Government not to impose this unwanted legislation. We appeal to our elected representatives to re-establish a functional Northern Ireland Government so that democratic process be restored. We appeal to the wider society to consider and reflect on the humanity and value of every life, from conception to death, that the weakest and most vulnerable would be protected and cherished by all.

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