The Northern Ireland Office’s new legal framework for abortion services, published today, are the ‘wrong course for Northern Ireland’ according to public policy charity CARE NI.
Regulations will now be laid at Westminster later today (Wednesday 25 March) which, if both the Houses of Commons and House of Lords pass them, will lead to the introduction of widespread access to abortion services on request in Northern Ireland.
The new framework means abortion will be legal up to 12 weeks for any reason and up to 24 weeks in cases of risk to mental or physical health. This essentially will mean abortion on request until 24 weeks.
The new regulations also mean abortion on the grounds of serious disability will be available up to birth. The door has been opened to sex-selective abortion and abortion for Down’s Syndrome and cleft lip, to name just a few examples.
An overwhelming majority of those who responded to the public consultation on the new framework – 79 per cent – expressed their opposition to any abortion provision in NI, beyond that which was permitted before the law was changed in October 2019.
Despite this eye-wateringly high level of public opposition, the NIO has not paid any attention.
Responding to the new regulations, CARE NI Chief Executive, Nola Leach, said:
“Today is a deeply sad day for many reasons and across Northern Ireland there will be considerable anger and frustration at having this new abortion framework imposed by Westminster.
“The fact the Northern Ireland Office is proposing a more liberalised law on abortion than the one currently in place in Great Britain adds insult to injury.
“We know the decision not to implement the 1967 Abortion Act has led to 100,000 individuals being alive today in Northern Ireland who would otherwise not be.
“The reality is that Westminster should never have acted to override the devolved Assembly on this issue. Elected representatives from NI have been ignored and the voices of thousands of individuals have simply been set aside.
“The NIO has also clearly ignored the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who responded to the public consultation on the new framework were completely opposed.
“Consequently, we call on both Houses of Parliament to reject the regulations when both House’s get the chance to debate the regulations.
“We understand the magnitude and scale of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic in Northern Ireland and beyond. We also recognise Assembly members are understandably focusing on this issue at the current time.
“Whatever happens at Westminster in terms of these regulations, this issue needs to be considered at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“We particularly would highlight the vital need for investment in crisis pregnancy centres to support and help new mums who face crisis pregnancies.
“At CARE NI, we believe both lives matter and that ultimately, the new abortion services being provision proposed will harm – not help – women and babies.”
Notes to editors:
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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 Northern Ireland Office’s response to the public consultation on the new abortion framework for Northern Ireland here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/a-new-legal-framework-for-abortion-services-in-northern-ireland?utm_source=ab5157ef-6eda-41e6-bb66-665578856427&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate
Please note, the regulations laid down by the UK Government will now come into force. However, they must be approved by MPs and Peers within 28 sitting days. If they are not approved within this timeframe, the regulations will fall.