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MPs back move to force abortions in NI

23 June 2022
Westminster purple sky

MPs have formally backed a move to force the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland, trampling the devolution settlement.

Last night, the House of Commons backed regulations from the UK Government to force action in NI by a margin of 215 votes to 70.

The regulations have also been rubber stamped by Peers meaning that action is now inevitable, including abortions in health boards across NI and a new telemedicine abortion service.

Abortion was first introduced in NI via UK Government regulations in 2019, when the power sharing agreement broke down in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Since then, the issue has been in political deadlock as the DUP and Sinn Fein face of over abortion itself and the legitimacy of Westminster's actions.

Ana­lys­is by CARE’s James Mildred

This is just the latest twist in one of the most disturbing moves by Westminster in recent times. Abortion is a deeply sensitive issue for voters across Northern Ireland. For decades, it stood apart from the rest of the UK with a life-affirming law that respected the equal rights of preborn babies and women. However, with abortion allowed up to 24 weeks in Great Britain and up to birth for disabilities, calls for changes in Northern Ireland were never far away. But for Westminster to act when the Stormont Assembly was not sitting was as opportunistic as it was disturbing.

Another key point to note is that technically, Northern Ireland’s abortion law is more extreme now than the rest of the UK. The law there allows for abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks and for certain reasons up to 24 weeks. It’s legal to abort up to birth for serious disabilities. In GB, that’s included treatable conditions like club foot. All of this despite strong public opposition in Northern Ireland and despite the fact abortion policy is a devolved competency. The great argument put forward by proponents was that it was about human rights. But there is no human right to take a life. As a result of Westminster’s interventions, Northern Ireland has had abortion laws imposed without it being decided and debated by Assembly Members.

The latest new powers the UK Government has given itself are extensive. There is no precedent for a UK Government Minister to to be given powers which have no accountability to Northern Ireland voters. It is also not clear how these new powers might be used or how the Executive and Department of Health would be made aware of the this decision.

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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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