UK Government to rewrite abortion regulations for Northern Ireland

The UK Government has announced they will rewrite the controversial Northern Ireland abortion regulations which were due to be voted on by MPs tomorrow.

The extreme abortion regulations had been condemned by Northern Ireland politicians, criticised by a highly influential House of Lords committee, disability advocacy groups and parents.

Additionally, thousands of people around the UK and across Northern Ireland have written to their local representatives calling on them to withdraw the legislation.

Unfortunately, it is now expected that the Government will shortly re-table the regulations, with only minor unsubstantial changes. 

Once the regulations have been revised, the UK Government will then have a twenty-eight-day window to organise a vote of MPs on the redrafted regulations.

Sadly, abortions will still be able to take place in Northern Ireland throughout this period and abortion activists and providers may lobby for further extreme measures.  

However, the delay also means that those who are pro-life have more time to persuade MPs and Peers to reject the regulations when the vote finally happens.

If MPs vote down the redrafted regulations it will send a very strong signal to the Government that these extreme regulations should not be imposed on Northern Ireland.

They will then be forced to redraft the regulations for a second time to either be 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.

The rewriting of the regulation follows scrutiny from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments who said that they had been “defectively drafted”.

Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose an extreme abortion regime on the province.

The new regime, which also allows de facto abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks and disability abortion right up to birth, came into force as law on 31 March.

Despite 79% of consultation respondents stating opposition to changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, the UK Government went far beyond what was legally required of them when they imposed radical changes to the law governing terminations in the province.

Last week, Northern Ireland peer Baroness Nuala O’Loan called on Northern Ireland residents to “make their voices heard” and demand the new extreme abortion regime regulations are not approved.

A Government spokesperson said: “Given the unprecedented situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact this has had on Parliamentary proceedings, we intend to remake these regulations on Monday, May 11, giving Parliament an additional 28 sitting days to consider them.

“The UK Government remains under a legal obligation to implement these regulations under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.”

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

“These regulations legalise sex-selective abortion and introduce abortion for babies with disabilities including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome to birth. They also introduce defacto abortion-on-demand to Northern Ireland through to 24-weeks. 

“Additionally, abortion provision will be opened up to midwives and nurses. This goes much further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions can only be performed by a doctor and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.  

“MPs and Peers at Westminster must take on board these problems and vote against the regulations when they are brought before Parliament.

“We urge those across the UK to save lives and protect unborn babies by using this extra time to contact MPs and Peers urging them to reject the redrafted regulations.

“If you have already emailed your MP, please use the opportunity this extra time provides to encourage more friends and family to write to their MPs.”

Northern Ireland abortion regulations to be rewritten

The Government have announced that they will be rewriting the Northern Ireland abortion regulations which were going to be voted on by MPs tomorrow. This means that a vote on the regulations will not be happening tomorrow.

Many thanks to all of you who have emailed your MP on this issue, asking them to vote against the regulations.

Unfortunately, it is now expected that the Government will shortly re-table the regulations, with only minor unsubstantial changes. There will then be a further twenty-eight-day window for the Government to organise a vote on the regulations, meaning that we will be facing a vote on the regulations within that time period. 

Sadly abortions will still be able to happen in Northern Ireland throughout this period.

The positive development here is that this delay means that we now have more time to persuade MPs and Peers to reject the regulations ahead of a vote, so if you have not emailed your MP yet, please do so by clicking the button below. 

If you have emailed your MP, this extra time provides an opportunity for you to encourage more friends and family to write to their MPs.

Thank you for your help on this. We’ll be keeping you updated as the situation develops on this.

Hospital’s youngest surviving premature baby now home

A hospital’s youngest premature baby who was born more than four months early has been allowed to go home.

Lilly Rae was born on 9 December at just 22 weeks and two days gestation at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

But despite weighing in at just over 1lb (511g) when she was born, about the same as a bag of sugar, Lily Rae proved to be a fighter.

Lilly was born with a beating heart, but struggled to breathe and move.

She was immediately put onto a ventilator, which she stayed on for seven weeks.

During her stay in hospital, Lilly suffered a bleed on the brain, underwent major surgery on a distended intestine and had to be put on a course of antibiotics to treat a series of life-threatening infections.

Then the coronavirus lockdown meant her mother Tayla Menear could only visit her daughter for two hours each day, while father Shane had to stay at home.

Thankfully though, following care from staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Lilly has grown stronger every day.

And last week, on Tuesday morning, Tayla and Shane had a call from Lilly’s neonatal nurse to say she could be discharged home that day.

Lilly can now begin her next chapter of life at home with her mother and father.

Having been born at just 22 weeks and 2 days, she’s the youngest surviving premature baby that the hospital has ever looked after.

Leaving the ward last week, Tayla said: “I cannot believe this day has come. We never dared hope that this could happen.

“I still don’t think I will believe it until Lilly is tucked up in her Moses basket at home with me and Shane.”

Specialist neonatal outreach nurses will continue to monitor her progress with regular visits to see her at home.

Consultant neonatologist Dr Priya Muthukumar said she is “reasonably optimistic” for Lilly because “her brain scans while in the neonatal unit have been reassuring and she has made very encouraging progress so far.”

Taylar said staff at the unit had been “incredible”.

Speaking about her experience she added: “For the first few months of Lilly’s life no-one knew if we would ever reach the point of going home as a family.

“I have since come across other cases and now want people to know if they go into labour at 22 weeks not to feel hopeless. There is always a chance.”

Last year, it was revealed that the survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

Additionally, a recent study has revealed the majority of premature babies grow up to be healthy adults without any major health problems.

Sadly, it is currently legal in Great Britain to abort unborn babies up to 24 weeks, or up to birth if doctors believe the baby will be born with a disability.

In 2018, the latest year with published data, 845 live births were recorded in England of babies with a gestational age of less than 24 weeks, according to the Office for National Statistics

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

“It has been over a decade since abortion time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008. Since then the survival rate for premature babies has doubled.

“Our current abortion time limit, at 24 weeks, is way out of line with medical breakthroughs and the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks, making time limits an issue Parliament should urgently revisit.”

“Additionally, independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below.”