Last year, the ERLC made a commitment to expanding its pro-life efforts internationally by partnering with other groups to oppose abortion, save preborn lives, and serve mothers in Northern Ireland. This week, the Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the ERLC, placed its first international ultrasound machine with Hope House, a Christian ministry seeking to love both lives of the mother and baby in pregnancy and beyond. A group from the ERLC, including Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives, personally delivered the ultrasound machine to Hope House to begin training their staff for this life-saving work.
“These machines have proven to be life-saving tools for organizations dedicated to serving both vulnerable mothers and preborn children,” said Graham. “My prayer is that many women would be helped and babies saved through the ministry of Hope House and that abortion would become unthinkable and unnecessary not only in Northern Ireland, but across the globe.”
Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the ERLC, commented on the importance of the ERLC’s international pro-life work.
“While our American pro-life work continues apace, the ERLC also recognizes this urgent and heartbreaking need that cannot be ignored in Northern Ireland,” said Leatherwood. “Just as the Supreme Court forced an abortion regime on our nation back in 1973, Parliament has done the same in Northern Ireland. As they face their own Roe moment, it is imperative that we stand for life with our brothers and sisters in this part of the world, equip them with life-saving technology, and pray for them as they provide hope to those in crisis so they may choose life.”
Abortion history in Northern Ireland
Abortion was illegal throughout the United Kingdom — which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland — before the 1967 Abortion Act. Because governmental power is distributed between the UK parliament and the national parliaments, the abortion laws have been applied differently in Northern Ireland than in the other parts of the U.K.
Until 2019, abortion had been illegal in Northern Ireland for more than 150 years. A law in 1861 made it a criminal offense to procure a miscarriage, and an exception was added in 1945 to say abortion could be permitted to preserve the mother’s life. No exceptions were made for rape, incest, or diagnoses of fatal fetal abnormality. However, women from Northern Ireland could have free abortions in other areas of the U.K. (England, Scotland, and Wales).
However, in October 2019, the U.K. parliament decriminalized abortion. At the time, the U.K. parliament gave the Northern Ireland government until the end of March to come up with regulations for the provision of abortion services. Medical abortions began to be provided at two hospitals in Northern Ireland in April 2020. The Department of Health funds such abortions, and doctors who have qualified in the past eight years are required to train to perform abortions.
The opposition to abortion has been driven largely by the religious nature of the country. Northern Ireland is about equally split between Catholics (41%) and Protestants (42%). In the Protestant Christian community, the reformed Presbyterians have some of the strongest support. Anglicans, Baptists, and Methodists also have strong presences, as well as non-denominational churches.
How you can get involved
ERLC has partnered with two local organizations in Northern Ireland to equip Christians to navigate the abortion crisis taking place there. The partnering pro-life entities include:
- Both Lives Matter, a campaign that advocates for both the mother and unborn child;
- Evangelical Alliance, an organization which unites Christians from across the wider United Kingdom on issues important to believers.
The ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project is able to serve pregnancy resource centers like Hope House by securing ultrasound machines and providing training for their use. The centers use the machines in their life-saving work to support women and families in crisis pregnancy situations, helping many to make the choice for life.
You can help us save lives by getting involved with the Psalm 139 Project. One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to Psalm 139 go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tennessee, 37203. Learn more at psalm139project.com.