The 24th, and last, Ordinary Meeting of the 164th session of the Literary and Scientific Society took place on the 9th of May in the totally cool Canada Room, but we hate Canada, so boo.
President Andrew Carruthers had a few announcements which mostly consisted of him bragging (about the success of our Conversazione, that we were going to the BBC Free Speech, our very own Dr Stephen Goss winning the Dufferin Medal) and then the depressing stuff about how it was his last debate. Which was sad.
We moved on swiftly to our guest chair and notable Trust member, the Honourable Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey’s opening remarks on the debate, THW Extend the 1967 Abortion Act to NI. He informed the House of the current laws regarding termination and that preserving the life of the mother included physical and mental health, not just death.
The first speaker for the proposition, Ms Emma Cambell from Alliance for Choice, spoke as a feminist. She believed in protecting the life of the already born and removing the shaming of women. She argued that if the Christian Church could change their views on abortion, then why couldn’t Northern Ireland?
This was met by the first opposition, Mr David McIlveen, DUP MLA for North Antrim. Although Mr McIlveen appreciated science, he commented that the issue of abortion was emotional and should not be looked at scientifically. On the topic of the law he told the House that local decisions are made for local people and to go against this would mean going against the Good Friday Agreement.
Ms Anna Lo, Alliance MLA for South Belfast began by saying she was pro-life in many aspects but that she supported a woman’s choice to do what she wants with her body. She asked the House to think of the unwanted children who are born and the hardship they have to face. She urged the House to leave opinions at home as moral code is getting in the way of women’s health and their right to equality.
It was then the turn of Ms Cliona McCarney, Vice-Chair of SDLP Youth. Ms McCarney argued that the current law was sufficient as it allowed termination in exceptional circumstances and that it should include circumstances of rape. She told the House that we should instead put an emphasis on looking after women properly. Ultimately she believed that with freedom comes responsibility and if you’re not ready for a child you should use protection.
Ms Aisling Gallagher, NUS-USI Women’s Officer & SDLP Youth Equality Officer, speaking for the proposition, proclaimed that statistically we all know someone who’s had an abortion. She told the House that making abortions illegal didn’t prevent them happening, but instead facilitates unsafe abortions and Stormont needs to hear the message to not be anti-woman.
Mr Jonny Gallagher on the other hand, opposed the motion as he didn’t feel the 1967 Act gave women enough rights as it gives women an exception, not a right. He questioned how the House of Commons could relate to women with them being underrepresented. All in all, he felt a fresh law should be created.
Mr Fionnbharr Rodgers, speaking for the proposition, felt a law making abortion illegal for everyone shouldn’t exist as the decision should ultimately be down to the person who knows their bodies and themselves. He explained that many women who consider abortion are young and scared and that since the foetus cannot live independently it cannot have the same rights as the mother.
Mr Jonny Murphy, member of the DUP, believed that women should be in control of their bodies, but that the right to life is more important than this. He proposed that the embryo at 6 weeks was a mini human waiting to grow as opposed to a clump of cells. He told the House that pregnant women should be supported and given the guarantee that after birth, mother and child could enjoy their lives.
Mr James McAlister believed the Act should be extended as it is not morally wrong. He commented on the dispute on when human life begins and explained that there is a difference between a human and a person. People, he said, have the capability of having a desire to exist, while a foetus does not.
Mr Sammy Wade told the House that abortion should not be legal anywhere as it goes against justice. He felt there should be equal protection for all life from the point of conception and that forcing the Act would go against the Good Friday Agreement as the majority of people in NI are pro-life.
The motion then went to the floor, where such questions as what is a human, would you choose suffering over death and what the impact on a pregnant woman for the motion would have on the House.
Ms Gallagher and Mr Wade made their summaries for their sides and Hon. Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey made his final remarks to the House.
There were some serious bromantic moments between Adam and Andy #tears, and the motion passed unanimously by the House.
I can’t remember what happened after that.