A Welsh Conservative MP quit his job as a ministerial aide in order to vote against new regulations that will force all state secondary schools to teach 11 to 16-year-olds about abortion access in Northern Ireland.
Robin Millar, MP for Aberconwy in Wales, was one of twenty Conservative MPs who voted against the regulations, which passed by a vote of 373 in favour to 28 opposed.
The new rules make teaching about access to abortion part of the curriculum and require the Department of Education in Northern Ireland to issue guidance ensuring that “pupils receive education on … access to abortion”.
Millar had been a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Welsh Secretary David TC Davies before he resigned from the post so he could vote against the abortion teaching regulations.
A PPS is an unpaid assistant to their minister and is regarded as a step on the ladder towards a ministerial position.
A concern for parents in Northern Ireland
The MP for Aberconwy said “I could not in good conscience represent parents and at the same time ignore the conclusion of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that more time was needed to consult with parents in NI before enacting this Statutory Instrument”.
Before a debate on the regulations last week, the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (SLSC) had been highly critical of the approach taken by the UK Government, which did not undertake a public consultation on the regulations. They suggested that, given the controversial status of the policy change, such a consultation ought to have taken place.
The Committee was also critical of the fact that there were no guarantees that parents would be able to withdraw their children from lessons that taught about abortion. They warned that “The Committee believes that this will be of considerable concern to parents in NI”.
A number of submissions made to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee raised concerns that teachers who are morally opposed to abortion would not have the option of opting out of teaching abortion to pupils.
MPs from Northern Ireland referenced the SLSC report in a separate debate in the House of Commons Second Delegated Legislation Committee last Monday. Ian Paisley said “I’ve never seen such a report from a legislative committee in my life … This isn’t some minor thing. This is about policy being made … and the Government has got it wrong”.
Abortion imposed on Northern Ireland despite public opposition
In 2019, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose a new abortion regime on the province, despite all of the Northern Ireland MPs who were present voting against the proposals.
The extreme abortion regime was forced on Northern Ireland on 31 March 2020 despite widespread opposition.
79% of respondents to a public consultation on introducing abortion to Northern Ireland opposed introducing abortion to the region and polling showed that two-thirds of women in Northern Ireland did not want abortion laws imposed by Westminster.
Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Well done to Robin Millar for taking a courageous stand, and resigning from his position so that he could do the right thing and vote against these regulations. We need more politicians like Robin Millar!”
“It is so encouraging that there is at least one MP willing to sacrifice his parliamentary career for the sake of the principle that parents must be consulted about teaching of controversial material like abortion access at schools”.
“Northern Ireland will now be going from a country where parents can decide when and how to teach their children about abortion, to all schools, including faith schools, being forced to teach students aged 11 to 16 years old about abortion”.
“The UK Government have claimed that the regulations will mirror the approach taken in England. If this is the case, it is highly controversial to force Northern Ireland schools to teach children about abortion given what is currently being taught regarding abortion as part of the RSE curriculum in England”.
What is being taught in schools goes far beyond outlining what the abortion law in England is. One resource that is recommended in the provided guidance to teachers outlines how to get an abortion, including late-term abortions, and teaches girls how to go about secretly having an abortion without their parents knowing”.
“In the same resource, students who are pregnant are encouraged to book an appointment at an abortion clinic, even if they are unsure about whether they want to have an abortion. Contact details for the three largest abortion providers in the UK, all of whom received the majority of their income from performing abortions, are provided in the resource”.
“This includes MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes), which the Care Quality Commission accused of paying staff bonuses for encouraging women to undergo terminations. At all 70 Marie Stopes clinics, inspectors also found evidence of a policy that saw staff utilise a high-pressure sales tactic, calling women who had decided against having an abortion to offer them another appointment. The report also stated that parents, partners or friends of pregnant women who might persuade them to think again about the termination were ‘seen as an inconvenience’ and that ‘their presence was strongly discouraged”.