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Forcing abortion amendments onto a fast-tracked Bill is ‘constitutionally unacceptable’ says Lords Select Committee

A fast-tracked Government Bill which is attempting to introduce radical abortion laws to Northern Ireland had already been heavily criticised by The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution before the controversial abortion amendments were added. The Committee said fast-tracking legislation “is constitutionally unacceptable save for exceptional and urgent circumstances.”

The Select Committee on the Constitution has joined a chorus of voices in their denunciation of the manner in which amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – which intends to foist abortion on Northern Ireland – was rushed through Parliament and added to the Bill without regard to ordinary parliamentary procedure.

The radical abortion amendment was only made known on Thursday (04/07), it was only selected 37 minutes before the debate began on Tuesday (09/07), and subsequently voted on later in the afternoon. Usually Bills can take months to go through multiple readings in both Houses of Parliament and often have an element of public consultation. The Northern Ireland Bill however, was rushed through most of the parliamentary stages in less than a week.

The Government is supposed to offer a justification for fast-tracking legislation and according to the report usually does so. However, in this case, the Select Committee said “no such justification has been provided in the explanatory notes to this Bill.”

The Select Committee said that “it can hardly be argued that the need for this legislation was not foreseeable and that it could not have been introduced earlier and proceeded with less haste.”

Parliamentary procedure is considered important because it allows parliamentary and public scrutiny of proposed legislation as well as an assessment of the likely impact of legislation both legally and in society. However, Baroness O’Loan said:

[T]here has been no White Paper, no Green Paper, no consideration of the impact of the provision, no consultation, no explanatory memorandum from [Stella Creasy], no consideration of conflicting current legislative measures. There has been no provision even for this to be done with the proper parliamentary procedure through both Houses of Parliament…

In his speech to the House of Lords, Lord Morrow described the attempt to force abortion on Northern Ireland by subverting ordinary parliamentary procedure as “wholly, totally and utterly unacceptable”.

Clare McCarthy from Right to Life UK said:

“As the Lords’ Select Committee pointed out, we are right to be concerned about the fast-tracking of this Bill. Even the head of Britain’s largest abortion provider, Ann Furedi, recognised that this Bill was forced through without proper scrutiny. Although whatever scruples she may have had about this were quickly forgotten. 

“This shows how pro-abortion lobby in their promotion of abortion, are happy to set asides principles and concerns in regard to parliamentary procedure – regardless of the safeguards that such procedure provides.”

“The haste and manner in which this amendment – that would make such a major change to the law in Northern Ireland – was added to the Bill and rushed through Parliament, is a threat to the democratic process and to the constitution.  

“The discarding of parliamentary procedure for the sake of political ends is extremely concerning. If amendments which radically alter a Bill in this manner can be forced through, it raises questions about what else other political actors might be able to force through too.

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