Hundreds of doctors, nurses and midwives have written to the NI Secretary, Julian Smith MP, expressing strong opposition to the plans to make extreme changes to NI’s abortion laws.
In particular, the health professionals want reassurance as “conscientious objectors” that they will not have to perform or assist with abortions.
One GP who signed the letter told the BBC he was not aware of any preparation to make sure staff were properly prepared for the law change.
Meanwhile, Midwives for Both Lives, a group opposed to any change to the law, has written to the Royal College of Midwives, Mr Pengelly and the NIO saying there was “currently no conscientious objection in law in NI for midwives…in contrast to our counterparts in mainland UK who are protected under law and under the NMC code.”
Westminster imposed abortion law changes
Back in July, MPs and Peers passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act which included a duty on the government to change NI’s abortion law.
The dramatic changes will come into force on 22 October if Stormont is not restored and regulations need to be in place by the end of March 2020.
If the changes do come into force, NI will go from a life-affirming law to having one of the most extreme abortion regime's anywhere in the world. The threat to the value of life in NI has truly never been greater.
Dangerous limbo period for five months
This creates a potential five month ‘limbo period’ where abortion will be widely available without any regulation or guidance.
In September, members of Parliament expressed alarm at this interim period during a debate on a report into abortion in NI.
This House has failed the people of NI
Speaking in the debate, Fiona Bruce MP said:
“This country has all manner of statutory checks to protect women, including the need for clinics to be vetted and registered, none of which will exist in Northern Ireland. How is that good for the health of women in Northern Ireland? I have heard it suggested that the bodies of the relevant health professions will self-police in the interim, but that is simply unacceptable. I believe that this House has failed the people of Northern Ireland in this Act.”
Meanwhile, Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women & Equalities Committee, commented on the lack of services in NI ready to accommodate this change come March 2020:
“If the law is to be changed in March next year, as is currently outlined in statute, significant work must be done at all levels of the health service in Northern Ireland to ensure that it can deliver on what will be a coherent law at that stage.…how will the Secretary of State ensure scrutiny of those who will be developing the services necessary to implement the law as it will stand in March of next year or as it will stand when a Northern Ireland Executive come into place?”
Find out more
For all the latest developments on abortion law in NI, click here.