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Influential committee highly critical of UK Government’s approach to imposing abortion on Northern Ireland

An influential legislative scrutiny committee in the House of Lords has labelled the implementation of Northern Ireland’s abortion regime as “poor practice” for “using a procedure which prevents discussion before the legislation takes effect”.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC), a body within the House of Lords that scrutinises proposed legislation, has released its Fifty First Report which draws “special attention” to Northern Ireland abortion regulations.

The committee pointed out that preventing discussion before the legislation takes effect “is particularly inappropriate when that policy is likely to be controversial, and the House may wish to ask the Minister to explain that decision”.

In addition to its criticism of the swift passing of this legislation, the SLSC was able to pose a series of questions raising points that had been made  by organisations, including Right To Life UK, in their submissions to the Committee.

As was argued before abortion was imposed on Northern Ireland by the Government in Westminster last year, abortion is supposed to be a devolved matter. A number of submissions to the committee challenged the Northern Ireland Office on this matter directly.

Sweeping new powers

The SLSC has been deeply critical of the new regulations that give Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis MP, sweeping new powers to commission abortion in the region.

When the Government in Westminster imposed abortion on Northern Ireland in 2020, abortions started being performed in hospitals without being fully commissioned. As such, earlier this year, one health trust in Northern Ireland was unable to perform abortions because the doctor was on maternity leave. The four other NHS trusts were still able to carry out abortions during this period.

This lack of uniform availability has become the springboard from which abortion supporters are attempting to expand abortion access across the entire region through the commissioning of abortion service. A number of MPs including Carla Lockhart, Nick Fletcher and Fiona Bruce have been highly critical of the Minister giving himself new powers to expand abortion access since it appears to completely ignore the fact that abortion is supposed to be a devolved matter in Northern Ireland.

On the matter of devolution, Lockhart asked: “Can the Secretary of State also confirm that according to the devolution settlement established by the Belfast agreement, access to abortion services is a devolved issue and this action represents a breach of the Belfast agreement?”

In his response, the Minister claimed that he had a legal duty to take the actions he did earlier in the week, a position which was strongly refuted by a number of other MPs.

Widespread opposition to further intervention on abortion in Northern Ireland.

Last month, the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill passed its second stage at the Northern Ireland Assembly by 48 votes to 12.  The Bill, launched by Paul Givan MLA, will provide protections for babies in the womb with disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, who currently can be aborted up to term.

Over 28,100 people have signed a petition in support of the Bill and 1,608 people with Down’s syndrome and their families signed an open letter to party leaders in Northern Ireland urging them to support the Bill.

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said: “The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee is right to criticise the legislation on procedural grounds although, of course, their criticism does not go nearly far enough. The Northern Ireland Office’s response to concerns about devolution, for example, amounts to little more than dismissive hand waving. As has been said before, there seems to be little point in devolution if it can simply be ignored as and when it suits the Government in Westminster”.

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Dear reader,

Thanks to the support of people like you, on Monday 5 July, a major attempt to hijack the UK Government’s flagship Police , Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill with two extreme abortion proposals failed, in a major pro-life victory.

Unfortunately, this major defeat is not the end for our opposition.

The abortion lobby has already been successful at using the Coronavirus crisis to temporarily introduce ‘DIY’ home abortions.

The policy has not only accompanied a large increase in the number of lives ended by abortion but has also been linked to a number of serious incidents where women’s lives have been put at risk while performing their abortion at home.

Our opposition is now eager to see more widespread changes to legislation enacted and we are currently facing major threats on three fronts:

  1. The abortion lobby is further exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to attempt to make dangerous ‘DIY’ home abortions available permanently.
  2. The Northern Ireland Secretary has given himself new powers to force expanded abortion services on Northern Ireland.
  3. The assisted suicide lobby has brought foward a bill to legalise assisted suicide, which was introduced to the House of Lords on 26 May.

If these major threats from our opposition are successful, it would be a disaster. Thousands of lives would be lost. We can’t sit on the sidelines and watch these extreme anti-life changes become a reality.

As you can see, while we have won our most recent battle, we continue to be facing a very large challenge on life issues in the UK over the next couple of months – and we will be facing this across multiple fronts.

We are, therefore, appealing to you to please give as generously as you can. Every donation, no matter how small, will go towards saving the lives of the unborn and many others.

By stopping these threats, YOU can save lives over this coming period.

Will you make a special gift right now to help protect vulnerable lives from these threats?

Q

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Q

Be the first to know…

When you sign up for email updates from us, you will be receiving:

Action alerts on the latest pro-life developments along with tools to help you change hearts and minds

Opportunities to help protect and defend more lives

Where should we send your updates?
By clicking submit, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms below.

Right To Life UK will use the information you provide on this form to keep in touch with you and to provide updates. You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at info@righttolife.org.uk. We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please see our Privacy Policy.

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