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Peers decry NI abortion power grab in moving speeches

29 April 2021
House of lords

Peers bravely spoke out against controversial Northern Ireland abortion regulations yesterday in a series of moving speeches.

The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021 were approved by the House of Lords yesterday and the House of Commons on Tuesday by a significant margin.

They compel the NI Executive to commission abortion services – despite abortion being a devolved issue, and the NI Assembly opting not to do this when it resumed last year.

The regulations also enshrine controversial new abortion standards forced on Northern Ireland by MPs when the Assembly was not functioning.

Since last year, abortion has been legal for any reason up to 12 weeks, on demand to 24 weeks, and up to birth in cases of disability. More than a thousand unborn babies were aborted last year.

Here are a selection of quotes from Peers who spoke against the move.

“This is a matter that should be dealt with by the Assembly. Work has been ongoing. There is a very firm belief in Northern Ireland that every life matters, that both mother and baby matter…It is important that your Lordships’ House respects the attempts being made in Northern Ireland to deliver effective devolved government. I ask noble Lords to…reject this further attempt to undermine the Northern Ireland Assembly. Help us. Have courage.”
Baroness O’Loan
“In the last 50 years in particular, we have developed a distinctive approach that affirms the importance of both lives, the life of the mother and that of the unborn. That may not matter to people in other parts of the union, but it matters very much to the people in Northern Ireland…. the only reason why we are here today is that Parliament decided to take the risk of dispensing with the Northern Ireland tradition”.
Lord Morrow
“I am a severely disabled parliamentarian who believes that I have as much right to exist as anyone else. The regulations may not apply to me directly, but they still threaten me because they challenge that right by devaluing my existence. The narrative of the regulations is that I should not really exist. Indeed, I would be better off dead… That is ultimately what the regulations are about: death for disability—in other words, state-sanctioned, state-sponsored lethal disability discrimination.”
Lord Shinkwin
“The regulations now before us…would replace one of the most conservative abortion regimes in the United Kingdom with one of the most liberal and discriminatory. That accords neither with the wishes of a majority of Assembly Members nor with the views of a significant majority—79%—of those who responded to a recent public consultation on this subject.”
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle
“It is…of considerable damage to the settlement in Northern Ireland for this instrument to be forced on the people of Northern Ireland without the agreement of the Executive. It is obviously a matter of considerable dispute in Northern Ireland and it is surely the objective of devolution to allow such matters to be decided in Northern Ireland itself.”
Lord Mackay of Clashfern
“Many have been complaining throughout lockdown about what we do not have, what we cannot enjoy and where we cannot go. As we vote today, I ask noble Lords to hear the voices of thousands of innocent little children who have never had the opportunity to live outside the womb and, before God, to prevent another unnecessary death.”
Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown
“I am pro-life but, for me, the debate is not about the rights or wrongs of abortion; it goes to the heart of the devolved settlement…If this proposed intervention by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is allowed through the approval of these regulations, a dangerous precedent will be set whereby the UK Government can legislate directly on devolved matters whenever they like. The Minister said that this power related exclusively to the issue of abortion; the House should take note of that.”
Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick
“I am deeply concerned that, rather than respecting the traditions of Northern Ireland, some representatives of other parts of the union have actively sought to disinherit Northern Ireland of her traditions. We simply cannot do that if we want our union to survive.”
Baroness Eaton
“If we value the lives of the disabled, we should not also pass laws allowing for the abortion of disabled babies. What does it say to those in our country, and in Northern Ireland, who have a severe disability, as we have heard already? The Government seem to be saying that these lives are less valuable.”
Lord Curry of Kirkharle
“We start every day’s session in both Houses of Parliament with prayers. Surely God’s words in the Bible should not be ignored. Psalm 139, verses 13 and 16, emphasises how God views each and every life that He creates as ordained for a purpose and special: “For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb …Your eyes saw my unformed body; All the days ordained for me were written in your book”. We have a choice between man’s regulations and God’s words. Everyone who is for abortion has already been born. Unborn babies do not have voices, but they do have rights.”
Lord Taylor of Warwick
“For pro-choice campaigners to support a UK Government deploying procedural chicanery that gives the Secretary of State unprecedented powers to expand abortion services seems to be cheating politically, and to be counterproductive and antidemocratic. By the way, having 90 minutes to debate women’s rights or Northern Ireland devolution seems insulting to both.”
Baroness Fox of Buckley

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