Yesterday a cross-party delegation of women from Northern Ireland came to Westminster to tell MPs to respect devolution and not impose liberal abortion laws on the province.
In the past year there have been calls from MPs at Westminster to by-pass the Assembly and impose new abortion laws in Northern Ireland even though abortion is a devolved issue.
Fiona Bruce MP hosted the women at a panel event in Parliament that was put on by Both Lives Matter. Each of the women took turns to speak giving MPs and Peers a chance to hear from those who would be directly affected by any change in the law.
“It’s vital that MPs hear from women who live and work in Northern Ireland and who represent other women across the Province. Our current law provides proper protection for both the mother and the unborn baby and we’ve found that many women have no desire for that law to be changed.” – Dawn McAvoy, Co-founder of Both Lives Matter
MPs, Peers and guests heard how there are 100,000 people alive in Northern Ireland today because of their laws on abortion. In comparison, since the 1967 abortion act, over 9 million lives have been lost in Great Britain.
The delegation of women spanned the political divide in Northern Ireland, with a DUP member joining with a former Sinn Fein mayor and a SDLP councillor, united in their ask that Westminster respects devolution.
“Abortion was fully devolved to the Assembly in 2009. Any move to liberalise our abortion laws through Westminster would be unreasonable and disrespectful to the democratic process in Northern Ireland. Such significant change would undermine the principle of devolution.” - Carla Lockhart, DUP Assembly Member
The speakers reminded British MPs and Peers that the Northern Ireland Assembly voted not to change the law as recently in 2016, choosing to keep the law as it stands. This means that the abortion law with the most recent democratic mandate in the UK is the one in Northern Ireland.
It was pointed out that If Westminster were to undermine devolution on this matter, it would mean the decision would be made by 97 per cent of MPs who do not even represent Northern Ireland.
“All across the north there are many women, of different political persuasions who do not want this sort of imposition and I would strongly urge MPs to listen to the views expressed today.” – Ann Brolly, former Sinn Fein Mayor.
CARE CEO Nola Leach on the event:
“It was great to see a good turn-out at such an important event. MPs and Peers saw there was huge support for Northern Ireland’s current laws on abortion, support that crossed religious, political and social divides.
“The government so far has expressed the view that abortion should be dealt with by a restored devolved Assembly. We urge the government to keep this promise.”