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CARE challenges claim that UK Govt is bound to hold abortion regulation vote by the CEDAW Convention

5 June 2020
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The charity CARE in Northern Ireland is challenging the UK Government to prove to the people of Northern Ireland that the abortion regulations need to pass in order to be compliant with the CEDAW Convention.

Yesterday in an Urgent Question at Westminster, the Minister said that the UK Government was bound to move forward with a vote on the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations in order to be compliant with the Convention.

Minister of State Robin Walker said: “Repealing section 9 ... has never been a viable solution.... we would still have a legal obligation to propose an alternative human rights-compliant model by 31 March to ensure we complied with convention rights."

Concerningly a number of MPs also seemed to have accepted the Government’s misrepresentation.

Huw Merriman MP said: "I would respectfully mention that it was not just a question of the Assembly and the Executive not being formed in Northern Ireland; it was also a question of treaty obligations not being followed, and it was the role of Parliament to ensure that they were followed."

Caroline Nokes MP said: "Does he agree ...that the right thing for the Government ​to do is to uphold the CEDAW regulations, be compliant with our human rights obligations and do the right thing by all women and girls in the United Kingdom?"

After the debate the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis MP applied the same misleading logic when he told the BBC that while the NI executive have the power to change the legislation, any changes must also comply with the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

However, as CARE has pointed out, the Convention does not even mention abortion, let alone create a right to it and it is disingenuous of the UK Government to say so.

Moreover Article 29 of the Convention expressly states that nobody has standing to ‘read in’ any right in the Convention which is not there in writing apart from the International Court of Justice and it has not done so.

Now CARE NI is calling on the Government to clarify its position to avoid misleading MPs ahead of the vote on the regulations next week.

CARE’s Chief Executive, Nola Leach, said:

“The UK Government is misleadingly claiming it has a duty under the CEDAW convention to impose abortion on Northern Ireland.

“This is simply not true.

“We know that the last Parliament chose to make a report produced by an unelected and non-judicial UN committee binding.

“But it is very important to be clear that there is nothing in the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations which are required by the CEDAW Convention or in order for Northern Ireland to be CEDAW compliant.

“It is disingenuous and not accurate to suggest that the constraint arises from any kind of international legal imperative and it’s crucial that when MPs vote on these Regulations next week that they know there is no international legal imperative for them to do so.

“It is also really important to understand that the text of the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations, go far beyond what the report produced by the CEDAW Committee has recommended.

“There is considerable anger in Northern Ireland over the way in which the UK Government continues to push these regulations, even though the Northern Ireland Assembly is functioning again and has voted by a clear majority to reject the regulations.

“The fact that there is no international legal imperative for abortion law to change in Northern Ireland arising from the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women is helpfully set out in an expert legal opinion from Mark Hill QC.

“The same opinion also explains that recommendations of the CEDAW Committee are matters of opinion of the report authors and that these do not arise from the Convention and therefore are not legally binding.

“There is no need to act on them in order for Northern Ireland to be compliant with Convention obligations.”


Notes to editors:

For interview requests or more information please contact James Mildred: // 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.

In order to see in detail why the assertion that the recommendations with which Parliament has chosen to constrain Northern Ireland, in violation of devolution, are not required by the CEDAW Convention please see the expert legal opinion of Mark Hill QC:

On Tuesday 2 June, MLAs voted 46-40 for a motion rejecting the imposition of abortion legislation including abortion to birth for non-fatal disabilities:

The Urgent Question debate mentioned above can be read in full here:

Brandon Lewis told he BBC he would not change abortion regulations:

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In any pregnancy, both the woman and preborn baby have inherent value and dignity, by virtue of being made in the image of God. CARE is passionately pro-woman and pro-life.

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