So on Monday night, thirteen weeks to the day since the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 passed the House of Lords, the clock runs out. Equal marriage will become law, abortion will be liberalised, and payments to victims must be provided for.
On Tuesday, we will have no more Sarah Ewarts where this pro-lifer’s heart breaks for women forced to carry a baby with little or no prospect of life outside the womb rather than making an active choice to do so. We will in due course have no more abortions exported to Great Britain’s statistics.
In that time, the DUP have attended a rally at Stormont protesting about the Westminster legislation, assured everyone that they are ready to return to the Executive with no preconditions, and arranged for Monday’s charade whereby the Assembly has been recalled to debate the Act which comes into force on Monday night regardless. It isn’t certain that the Assembly can hold such a debate without first electing a Speaker, let alone a First Minister or Deputy First Minister.
Meantime, public opinion has been “measured” by an opinion poll with leading and weasel word questions that this pro-lifer opted out of very quickly.
I don’t like abortion. I freely admit to believing life begins at conception (for example, see Psalm 139:13-16). Life is precious, but I catch myself on.
If I were a woman who had been raped or whose baby could not live outside the womb, could I look you in the eye and tell you I wouldn’t have an abortion?
What’s more important when a friend chooses an abortion, to condemn them or to be their friend when they need me?
Anyway. What is the common factor in everything that the DUP have done to bring the Executive back since 22 July?
No actions beyond symbolism.
The DUP has shown no evidence of doing the one thing that would have stopped sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Executive Formation Act coming into force, and that is to seek an agreement with Sinn Fein to form a new Executive. It would have involved negotiation and compromise, but if Sinn Fein had refused to reach an agreement, what a propaganda victory it would have been for the DUP. The DUP would have been able to look everyone in the eye and said they had done everything in their power to make enough compromises to persuade Sinn Fein to re-establish the Executive, including setting aside such negotiation red lines as the Irish Language Act and equal marriage.
But instead… “no red lines.” Which isn’t entirely true. There appears to have been an invisible red line since the collapse of talks in February 2018: that a return to the Executive seems conditional on there being no negotiations in advance, no moves to address the matters of substance that underlie the collapse of the Assembly.
Yet that failure to negotiate has to be seen as the real reason for abortion reform being forced on NI in its current form. The DUP had the power to seize the moral high ground by acting with the hope of success but proving best efforts in the case of failure. Instead, the evidence suggests that they chose words, symbolism and virtue signalling that they knew would certainly fail.
And when the rubber hits the road, that’s what matters.
I’m one of those pro-lifers who choose their party allegiance by the broad sweep of policy, how those policies added together promote life for all, unborn and living. That broad sweep of policies rule out my joining those NI parties which are explicitly pro-life. Instead, I find my home in a party which takes the conventional UK position where being pro-life or pro-choice is a matter for individual conscience. It’s worth noting that in GB, a voter seeking a party to repeal the Abortion Act 1967 would probably find no home.
But explicitly pro-life parties with the power to stop legislation from coming into force have to be seen to use that power. Unless evidence arises that the DUP did in fact spend the last twelve weeks attempting to negotiate with Sinn Fein in a way likely to lead to the re-establishment of an Executive, it appears for the time being that in fact, the DUP consider blocking an Irish Language Act to be more important than preventing abortion reform.
And that is very bad for any supposed pro-life credentials.
Andy has a very wide range of interests including Christianity, Lego, transport, music, the Alliance Party, chess and computers. Anything can appear in a post.
Andy tweets at @andyboal