Abortion Law in Northern Ireland Report recommends Westminster interference

25th Apr 2019 - James Mildred

Following a public inquiry, the Women and Equalities Committee at Westminster had published its report into abortion law in Northern Ireland.

Even though none of the MPs on the Committee represent constituencies in Northern Ireland, the Chair’s report recommends that Westminster legislate to allow abortion in limited circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality.

Report ignores majority of NI responses

But pro-women, pro-life group Both Lives Matter responded by saying the right place for such a discussion was in Northern Ireland, not the corridors of Westminster. Co-founder Dawn McAvoy said, “The report, which was not adopted unanimously, calls for law change to allow abortion in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’. We would welcome consultation about this recommendation, but the proper place for such a debate is in Northern Ireland, not in the committee rooms of Westminster.”

Both Lives Matter also pointed out that most responses from people living in Northern Ireland – 88% - were opposed to Westminster interfering.

This is backed up by ComRes polling from October last year which showed that 64% of people and 66% of women in Northern Ireland think abortion law there should not be decided by MPs at Westminster.

Devolution would be undermined

CARE, who have an office in Belfast, warned that the report’s main recommendation would undermine devolution. The charity’s Chief Executive Nola Leach said: “There’s no doubt that the issue of access to abortion where an unborn child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition deemed fatal before, during or shortly after birth is hugely sensitive. But the proper place for a discussion about this is at the Assembly in Northern Ireland. The prospect of Westminster imposing change is highly alarming, as any legislation put forward could be amended to allow for widespread access to abortion on request for any reason in Northern Ireland. We do not believe the hardest of hard cases should be utilised to allow for abortion on request.” Nola's comments were picked by BBC NI

The Alternative Report

It is important to note that the report was not unanimously accepted by members of the Committee. Two members backed an alternative report put forward by Conservative MP Eddie Hughes which, while respecting the devolution settlement, makes some positive recommendations for the relevant Northern Ireland departments.

A more sinister agenda

Abortion law has been the responsibility of the Assembly in Northern Ireland since 1921. Unlike Great Britain, Northern Ireland did not adopt the 1967 Abortion Act and abortion is only permitted in NI in certain, exceptional circumstances when the mother’s life is deemed to be at risk. Robust research by Both Lives Matter has shown that there are 100,000 people alive today in NI because of its life-affirming laws.

So far, the UK Government has held the line, with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley reminding MPs last month that the issue was devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

But despite the importance of the devolution settlement, there are some MPs who are determined to pursue a more radical abortion agenda which aims at removing all legal safeguards so abortion would be available anytime, anywhere.

In November last year, an attempt by pro-abortion activists to amend the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill to introduce abortion in NI up to 28 weeks was defeated.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

CARE in Northern Ireland launched a billboard campaign this year called ‘Fearfully and Wonderfully Made’, well-known words from Psalm 139. Across NI, this message appeared on Billboards and at Bus Stops, sending a powerful message about the true value of life.

Find out more

Read our press release here

For all the latest on our on-going work on abortion in Northern Ireland and across the UK, see here

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