Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has said the petition presented to the Assembly on behalf of Precious Life was misleading, and potentially dishonest.
Paula Bradshaw said: “On 28 November, Jim Wells made a great fuss of presenting to the Speaker of the Assembly what he described as ‘the largest ever petition received by the Northern Ireland Assembly’ when he delivered what he said were 57 boxes containing 300,000 signatures calling for the protection of the unborn child.
“I have since been told by the Justice Minister that she received 47 boxes of material containing nine separate campaigns dating from 2001 to 2014. These campaigns included opposition to plans by a ‘group of pro-abortion MPs’ to change the law on abortion.
“The boxes also included material from a 2012 Precious Life campaign to stop Marie Stopes International opening a clinic in Northern Ireland. This is interesting, because in 2013 Precious Life presented to the Assembly what they claimed were 250,000 signatures against Marie Stopes, so it seems they have reused these signatures in this latest campaign.
“Jim Wells also stated the signatories could be verified as Northern Ireland residents because they gave their address, but the Justice Minister has identified addresses which were not in Northern Ireland.
“Considering the latest material from Precious Life is from nine campaigns covering a 14 year period, I would ask how many individuals are actually supporting these campaigns? How many people have signed for more than one campaign? How many of these signatories for one campaign realised their names would be added to other campaigns they may not support? How many are from outside Northern Ireland?
“At best, this campaign is highly misleading, but could also be portrayed as dishonestly misrepresenting public views.”