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Westminster trampling devolution by abortion imposition threat

16 December 2021
Carla Lockhart MP

A decision by Westminster to force the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland would disrespect devolution and the people of NI, pro-life MPs have said.

Abortion rules were imposed on Northern Ireland in 2019 but the NI Executive has chosen not to order services to be commissioned across the country.

NI Health Minister Robin Swann insists he cannot do this without the approval of the wider five-party coalition Executive. The DUP and Sinn Fein – the two largest parties – disagree.

At a Westminster Hall Debate this week, pro-abortion MPs demanded the UK Government force the commissioning of abortion services over the heads of MLAs.

The UK Government has said it will impose fresh regulations on Northern Ireland if it does not commission abortion by March next year.

However, pro-life MPs argued that this would be unjust and undemocratic.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart (Upper Bann) said: “It’s a matter of deep regret that this House has sought to impose as well above the devolution settlement.

“At the heart of devolution must lie respect for the areas of legislation that have been determined to fall within the jurisdiction of devolved authorities.

“On complex and highly charged matters such as abortion, the benefit of the doubt should always be granted to the devolved authorities that they are capable of managing their own affairs.”

The DUP’s Jim Shannon also said it is up to the Assembly to “make the decision on abortion”, adding, “thousands upon thousands” of NI citizens do not want “abortion on demand”.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce also spoke out arguing that now the NI Assembly is up and running it “has the legislative competency to act on abortion related matters”.

She added: “Imposing these ill-thought-through and hurried-through regulations would demonstrate a profound lack of respect for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives.”

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