Guest Column

Northern Ireland Assembly opposes extreme abortion law ahead of UK Parliament vote

Northern Ireland pro-life protest

(Right to Life UK) – The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion opposing the extreme abortion regime which had been imposed on the province by the UK Government.

New abortion regulations were drawn up by Westminster last year in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly. They came into force in March.

But, yesterday, MLAs voted to reject the extreme abortion regulations by 46 votes to 40.

The motion, was tabled in response to Heidi Crowter, the 24-year-old disability campaigner, who has spoken out against the proposal of the UK Government to impose on Northern Ireland abortion up to birth in cases of disabilities like Heidi’s own, Down’s syndrome.

In proposing the motion MLA Joanne Bunting referred to how Heidi said the law was “offensive and hurtful”.

Ms Bunting added that, as Heidi argued, the law was clearly saying “that people with Down’s syndrome or other disabilities are of less value that people with without disabilities”.

Welcoming the outcome of the debate, DUP MLA Paul Givan said: “The Assembly has now rejected these extreme abortion regulations on the basis of how they discriminate against the unborn especially those with disabilities.”

He added: “The regulations imposed by Westminster have led to Northern Ireland having the most liberal abortion regime in Europe.

“This approach undermined the devolution settlement, but worst of all facilitated the ending of so many precious lives. That is something that the majority of people here in Northern Ireland are against.”

MPs and Peers at the UK Parliament are due to vote later this month on whether to approve or reject regulations that introduce an extreme abortion regime to Northern Ireland.

Whilst the vote at the Northern Ireland Assembly will not directly change the law in Northern Ireland, it has sent a very strong message to the UK Government, MPs and Peers at Westminster that Northern Ireland reject these regulations being imposed on the province.

READ: Couple refuses abortion for baby with missing limb: ‘She is the biggest blessing’

This will make it much more difficult for MPs and Peers to vote to impose these regulations on Northern Ireland when they have been resoundingly rejected by the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

If MPs and Peers vote down the redrafted regulations later this month, the UK Government will then be forced to draft the regulations for a third time to be either less extreme or bring forward legislation allowing parliament to vote on revoking the regulations. The second of those options would give back control to the people of Northern Ireland through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Polling organised by the University of Liverpool and Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council has shown that 58% of Sinn Féin voters and 54% of DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24 weeks, which is in line with what the Government has introduced to Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Tonight’s vote has made it clear that the UK Government must urgently hand back this devolved matter to the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland at the Assembly.

“The UK Government and Westminster now have absolutely no mandate whatsoever to impose these extreme regulations on Northern Ireland. 

79% of respondents to the Government consultation on these regulations were opposed to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond what was previously permitted. 

“Polling shows the majority of Sinn Féin and DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24 weeks, which is in line with what the Government will be introducing to Northern Ireland. This polling shows a clear rejection from the people of Northern Ireland for the UK Government’s regulations. If the devolution settlement of Stormont is to be respected, the cross-community view against this extreme abortion framework must be respected.

“With Stormont having been restored for over five months, it is vital that the people of Northern Ireland have a say on their country’s new abortion framework through their elected representatives in the Northern Irish Assembly. It’s time to end this blatant undermining of devolution and hand back control on this devolved issue to Northern Ireland.” 

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Right to Life UK and is reprinted here with permission. 

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