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16 March 2016

Women deserve better

Women deserve better

The original feminists opposed abortion and sought to address the root causes that drove women to it. Our society will only truly make progress when we stand in solidarity with women in their pregnancy and offer to do more for them. Dawn McAvoy from Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland writes...

Last week, on International Women's Day, we celebrated the "social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women", but we also had to challenge the fallacy that to be pro-women is to be pro-abortion.

Across the UK, there are campaigns led by high profile groups that aim to de-stigmatise, legalise and ultimately normalise abortion - all in the name of women's rights and equal participation in society.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS - one of the primary providers of government funded abortion in the UK - was recently quoted as saying: "One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime in the UK. The ability to end a pregnancy has enabled women to live their lives in the way that they see fit and bear children at the time they think is right."

As a woman it is inexcusable and abhorrent to me that the extension of women's rights is being indissolubly linked with the erosion of the right to life of unborn children. Now, women holding the power of life or death over their children is framed as a victory for equality.

The recently launched "We Trust Women" campaign is disingenuous. Using the "On the Shoulders of Giants" short film, the campaign paints the decriminalisation of abortion as the last battle in a long series of hard-won legal rights for women, like the vote and equal pay. What the film does not say is that, without known exception, the original feminists opposed abortion. Instead, they sought to address the root causes that drove women to abortion - a culture and society that devalued them and considered them as property.

The past 100 years have seen significant gains in the fight for women's suffrage. But to now use those hard-won human rights in order to end human life isn't progress, freedom or equality. When society today truly stands in solidarity with women in their pregnancy and offers to do more than "Trust Women" - that is progress.

As women, we should never have to choose between our children and our relationships, our education or our career. But the solution to discrimination against women should not be more discrimination against a different, more vulnerable, group - the unborn. In order to remove the right to life of the unborn, its very humanity must be denied. As a woman, my right to choose should never outweigh the right to life.

Women deserve better than abortion.

We deserve better relationships and sex education, and world-leading healthcare including maternal healthcare. We deserve consistent pathways of care for every pregnancy and pregnancy crisis, including an Executive commitment to perinatal hospice care. We deserve affordable flexible childcare, equal pay and government policies which are family proofed because families make for a stronger, more prosperous society.

While it is common for Northern Ireland to be portrayed as backward for its tightly-defined law on abortion, as a society we are much closer to the definition of family planning as a human right. According to the Cairo Convention (1994), abortion is not to be promoted as a method of family planning. It says, in fact, that good family planning is integral to ensuring that there is no need for recourse to abortion.

The campaign to legalise abortion seeks to privatise the value of life. The law in Northern Ireland so values life that the taking of life sits under criminal rather than civil law. Abortion in Northern Ireland is permitted within strict legal parameters. Two lives are recognised and protected. Abortion is not allowed solely for the purpose of ending the life of the unborn child.

Northern Ireland has seen enough violence, we do not need more.