Northern Irish Peer Baroness O’Loan and Northern Irish MP Carla Lockhart have joined forces to launch an open letter urging MPs and Peers from England, Wales and Scotland to give the people of Northern Ireland ‘their voice back’ and allow them to decide their own abortion laws.
It comes after MLAs voted by 46 votes to 40 to pass a motion stating the Northern Ireland Assembly’s opposition to the extreme abortion regime imposed on the province.
The letter asks MPs and Peers, who will all have a vote in determining Northern Ireland’s abortion law within the next ten days, not to disenfranchise the people in Northern Ireland (the only people who will be impacted by the law) by drowning out and undermining the voices of their representatives.
This follows the last Westminster vote on Northern Ireland’s abortion regulations in July 2019, in which 100% of Northern Irish MPs present voted against the legislation.
However, abortion was imposed on Northern Ireland regardless because of the greater number of English, Welsh and Scottish MPs, enforcing their different view on the province.
In addition, 79% of respondents to a Government consultation on the issue stated clear opposition to any changes in the province’s abortion legislation.
Now, Baroness O’Loan and Carla Lockhart are asking the public in Northern Ireland to join them by putting their names to their open letter which asks British MPs and Peers to respect devolution by either voting against the extreme abortion regulations or, if they feel unable to do this, to abstain from voting on the matter.
If MPs and Peers vote down the redrafted regulations, 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.
The pro-life DUP MP and former police commissioner for Northern Ireland have also asked the public to help them get as many names as possible on the letter ahead of the Regulations being debated in the Houses of Commons (8 June) and the House of Lords (15 June).
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 came into force on 31 March, allows abortion up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome.
Abortion is available de-facto on demand through to 24-weeks and available on-demand, without conditionality, up to 12 weeks of pregnancy for the first time in the UK, allowing for sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand.
Yesterday, a large group of cross-party MPs raised a multitude of concerns over the regulations with the Minister for Northern Ireland, Robin Walker MP.
Among others, questions were raised over whether the UK Government really had an obligation to impose such an extreme abortion regime and over the “deep flaws” in the regulations which make it one of the “most liberal abortion laws in Europe”.
DUP MP Ian Paisley said that giving back control to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland is the “democratic thing to do, the right thing to do, and the appropriate thing to do.”
However, in response to these various questions Robin Walker MP repeatedly reiterated the claim that the Conservative Government had obligations to deliver abortion in Northern Ireland.
Additionally, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has declared the UK Government will not change the regulations despite Tuesday’s vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly and yesterday’s debate.
Baroness O’Loan and Carla Lockhart are hopeful that a significant number of people from Northern Ireland signing this open letter will convince MPs and Peers to reject the regulations and “give the people of Northern Ireland their voice back”.
During yesterday’s debate, Carla Lockhart, who has an early day motion supporting Fiona Bruce’s Bill against disability-selective abortion for cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot, said:
“This Government, whether we like it or not, is continuing to ride roughshod over the devolved administration in Northern Ireland. It is discriminating against people who have non-fatal disabilities, and is going far beyond its legal requirement and has implemented the most liberal abortion laws in the whole of Europe.”
The Upper Bann MP, who used her maiden speech as an MP to defend the right to life of unborn babies, said: “Both lives matter. It is not just about the woman’s health, it is about both lives.
“It is not the right of this Government to implement such liberal abortion laws on Northern Ireland that will see abortion up to birth for disability.”
Baroness Nuala O’Loan has previously told Irish News it would be “very wrong” if the extreme abortion regime was “approved without proper consideration and without taking into account the views of the people of Northern Ireland”.
Shortly after the initial vote to impose abortion on Northern Ireland, last year, the pro-life peer strongly condemned the vote as being “reminiscent of colonial days” as it undermined the sovereignty of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland to make their own decisions about their own abortion law.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“If it wasn’t already clear, the actions of this past week show the people of Northern Ireland do not want these extreme abortion regulations imposed on them.
“The UK Government and Westminster now have absolutely no mandate whatsoever to impose abortion on Northern Ireland,
“Yet, Government officials have revealed they will continue to ignore the will of the people of Northern Ireland and continue regardless.
“The best way of preventing them is if the Government loses its coming vote on the regulations and does the right thing in handing back the decision to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
“This joint letter by Baroness O’Loan and Carla Lockhart will help persuade MPs this is the right thing to do and we, therefore, would encourage many people to sign it and share it.”