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MPs vote to give NI Minister sweeping new powers to impose abortion provision

28 April 2021
Stormont General

Last night, MPs voted 431-89 for new regulations that give the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland sweeping new powers to expand abortion provision across NI.

The vote followed a debate on Monday afternoon by MPs who sit on the First Delegated Legislation Committee where several MPs piled pressure on the UK Government's over the new regulations.

Speaking during last night's debate, Miriam Cates MP said:

“Abortion is a devolved issue, and the only legal or moral basis for the 2019 intervention by the UK Government was that there was no sitting Northern Ireland Assembly at that time. As we are all aware, that is no longer the case, and the Assembly has shown itself to be perfectly competent in developing its own legislation.

“There is no longer any justification for the UK Government to enforce the regulations. Pressing ahead, as we are doing today, is a breach of the Belfast agreement and weakens the trust and respect upon which devolution is founded…. [T]he Northern Ireland Assembly opposes the regulations. When the people of Northern Ireland were consulted on the regulations last year, 80% rejected them”.
Miriam Cates MP

Northern Ireland MP Carla Lockhart said:

The regulations are not just based on the false premise that they are a requirement of international law… [T]he case for the vote on 9 July 2019 was greatly strengthened by a claim that it is now clear was not true.

“The CEDAW convention, which is international law and is supposed to define the terms of reference of the CEDAW committee, does not even mention abortion, let alone define a right to it. Moreover, the CEDAW committee is not a judicial body, and it does not have standing to read in a right to abortion, as demonstrated by Professor Mark Hill, QC."
Carla Lockhart MP

Before the vote, CARE spoke out and warned the regulations were an 'assault on devolution'. The charity's CEO, Nola Leach, said:

“Whatever we think about abortion itself, there is simply no democratic case for this move by the UK Government. It is a direct assault on the devolution settlement, and it risks compounding existing constitutional tensions.

“Ministers would never meddle in the affairs of the Scottish or Welsh Parliaments in this way. There would be outrage and justifiably so. So why do they feel entitled to with NI? The UK Government must allow NI’s democratically elected politicians to take decisions on behalf of her citizens.”
Nola Leach CEO of CARE

What hap­pens now?

Members of the House of Lords will vote on the regulations later today.

A number of 'wrecking amendments' have been tabled by Lord Morrow, Lord Shinkwin and Baroness O'Loan. If they pass, the regulations will fall.

Please pray with us that Peers will reject these unwarranted 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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