In documents given to CARE NI, senior officials in the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland have admitted that the five-month absence of a regulatory framework governing abortion from 22 October to 31 March will lead to “obvious difficulties” for the Department of Health and health professionals.
The recent release of guidance by the Northern Ireland Office has highlighted what some of these “obvious difficulties” are especially with regard to abortion pills, provision for conscientious objection and the readiness of the NHS to provide abortions in NI.
Moreover, the documents also cast doubts on whether the new regulations will even be ready by the end of March 2020, with the Government Equalities Office admitting they felt it would be tough to bring in the regulations in this timeframe and that they would prefer a longer window to get them ready.
The Department has also admitted that new abortion laws will be more liberal than the laws currently in place in Great Britain.
CARE NI said today in response that the documents highlight the flawed nature of the new legislation and the charity again called on MLAs to get the Assembly back up and running.
CARE NI Policy Officer, Mark Baillie said:
“It is striking that Department of Justice officials in their internal communications admit the new abortion laws will cause significant issues.
“Here we have senior Departmental officials acknowledging what we and other have been arguing that the new legislation, imposed on us by Westminster, will mean we end up with a more liberal abortion regime than GB.
“These documents also highlight that the Westminster legislation which was voted on by MPs who do not represent NI, is a poorly drafted, rushed piece of legislation.
“The failure to conduct any consultation with the people of Northern Ireland on this legislation has directly led to some of these problems.
“The comments about the five-month regulatory gap are also deeply concerning.
“The concerns raised by Departmental officials are only highlighted further by the publication of guidance by the Northern Ireland Office for healthcare professionals which leave many unanswered questions about how the new legislative framework is going to operate in practice.
“Our politicians need to get around the table, put aside differences, work together to see the devolved Assembly back up and running.
“The Assembly is where big decisions about abortion law in NI should be happening.”
Notes to editors:
For interview requests or more information please contact James Mildred: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07717516814
CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.
The correspondence mentioned above was given to CARE NI, following an FOI request to the Department of Justice. The relevant documents are attached to this email.
Here are the key quotes:
On the five-month regulatory gap period, the DoJ admits: “this will leave a significant gap which will have very obvious difficulties for DOH and health professional, but this is largely a matter for DOH.”
On the new NI abortion regime, the documents admit the new abortion legislation in NI: “will actually go further than what is in GB”.
On the requirement to come up with new regulations by end of March 2020, the Government Equalities Office admits it: “will be quite tough to do within the deadline”.
Late on 7 October, the Northern Ireland Office published new guidance on abortions for healthcare professionals: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/837166/Guidance_for_the_medical_profession_in_Northern_Ireland.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3iqPhK38jhgM1zQreCTPWigY2lgAiB3Yt5Fw-jEEK4TGJfxDY5XLzFIVQ
Read CARE NI’s response to it here: https://care.org.uk/news/latest-news/new-abortion-guidelines-show-just-how-bad-nis-new-abortion-law-will-be