Abortion and gay marriage have become legal in Northern Ireland for the first time, rallying Christians against dramatic policy changes put in place without their consent.
Northern Ireland’s longstanding opposition to abortion has made it a pro-life holdout in the United Kingdom, with a local ban against the procedure in all cases except if a mother’s health is in danger. Yet, these abortion restrictions were overturned after lawmakers failed to assemble on Monday to block laws passed on its behalf by the United Kingdom.
The UK directive went into effect midnight last night, meaning women can no longer be prosecuted for obtaining an abortion. Hospitals will not provide abortions in Northern Ireland until April 2020.
“The changes will mean Northern Ireland moves from having the most protective environment for the unborn to having some of the most liberal abortion laws in Europe,” said Peter Lynas, Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance of the United Kingdom, which co-founded the pro-life, pro-woman campaign Both Lives Matter to oppose reforms.
“They were imposed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland and will fundamentally shift our culture. There has been a significant mobilization, particularly on the issue of abortion. The issues have also united churches and seen evangelical and Catholics working closely together.”
Northern Ireland, whose Protestant population is now roughly equal to its Catholic population, has resisted efforts to legalize abortion for decades. Research by Both Lives Matter indicates that 100,000 lives have been spared from abortion in the region since the rest of Great Britain adopted the 1967 Abortion Act allowing the procedure.
The UK government declared in July that Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion and gay marriage (the country previously recognized same-sex civil partnerships only) were out of compliance with human rights regulations, and would have to change if the region’s own government didn’t intervene, The New York Times reported.
The Evangelical Alliance lobbied for the local assembly to reconvene, after it had not met for more than 1,000 days. Not enough members turned up on Monday to prevent the UK laws from being enacted.
Arlene Foster, who leads the Protestant, conservative Democratic Unionist Party, said in August that opposition to abortion has united Protestants and Catholics as “one issue where alliances have developed across the main traditions in the community.”
Yet, some polls showed that public opinion was turning. The country of Ireland (not part of the UK) voted last year to repeal its abortion ban by a landslide, allowing women to procure abortions at up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. Around the same time, a majority of people in Northern Ireland—65 percent—said abortion should no longer be a crime.
Most, however, oppose the “bad law” currently overriding the country’s status quo, Evangelical Focus reported.
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Source: Christianity Today