Campaign to repeal extreme abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland launched

The SaveLives: Repeal campaign has been launched to urge Northern Ireland’s politicians to save lives by repealing the extreme abortion regime that will be imposed on the province just next week. 

The new regime, announced yesterday, will introduce disability-selective abortions up to the point of birth, for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

Abortion will be available on-demand, without conditionality, up to 12 weeks’ for the first time in the UK, allowing for sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand

Between 12 weeks’ and 24 weeks’ abortion will be available in cases where “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl, greater than the risk of terminating the pregnancy’”. Similar wording in England and Wales has, in practice, allowed for de-facto abortion on demand.

Under the new regime, abortions will be available in neighbourhood GP surgeries throughout Northern Ireland. Again, this goes further than the current law in England and Wales, where the Abortion Act 1967 currently restricts abortion to hospitals and a limited number of approved locations by the Secretary of State – these are not routinely provided in GPs surgeries. This will dramatically increase the locations, compared to England and Wales, where this extremely divisive procedure can take place.

There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved in an abortion – midwives and nurses will be able to provide abortions. This goes further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner (doctor), and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) drafted the framework following on from a public consultation it carried out last year.

However, the NIO seems to have ignored the majority of its over 21,000 responses. It revealed 79% of respondents had “expressed a view registering their general opposition to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted”.

Right To Life UK is now calling on members of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to introduce legislation as soon as possible to repeal the extreme abortion regime.

They want the Northern Ireland Department of Health to confirm it will prioritise dealing with the Coronavirus crisis and not divert any time and resources, which are critical to saving lives during this crisis, to help usher in this extreme abortion regime across the province.

Thousands of people have already used the platform to contact their local representatives, in less than 24 hours. The changes are due to be enforced from 31 March 2020  without any scrutiny from the Northern Ireland Assembly which reconvened on 11 January.

A new poll, 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 will be introducing to Northern Ireland.

Pro-life MP Carla Lockhart said the Government’s decision to impose its abortion regime “ignores the devolution settlement and the overwhelming viewpoint of the Northern Ireland people”.

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

“Despite the fact that Stormont has returned and the UK is in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, the UK Government are proceeding with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland on 31st March 2020.

“To add insult to injury, they have taken what Parliament asked them to impose on Northern Ireland and made it far worse, meaning that Northern Ireland will have one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world, despite 79% of respondents to the consultation being opposed to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted.

“This extreme abortion regime will legalise sex-selective abortion and introduce abortion for babies with disabilities including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome to birth. It will introduce defacto abortion-on-demand to Northern Ireland through to 24-weeks.

It will also open up abortion provision 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. 

“Abortions will also be available at GPs surgeries throughout Northern Ireland, this again goes further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions are restricted to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State.

“Introducing abortion on demand to Northern Ireland would cost over £5m a year, putting more pressure on an already stretched health service. Rolling out the service is likely to cost much more in terms of start-up costs and will take vital health service time and resources from fighting the Coronavirus.

“We are calling on MLAs to urgently confirm the Department of Health will prioritise dealing with the Coronavirus crisis and not divert any time and resources, which are critical to saving lives during this crisis, to instead introducing this extreme abortion regime across Northern Ireland.

“We are also calling on MLAs to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this extreme change to the law”

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