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Press release – Committee highly critical of UK Government’s approach to imposing abortion on Northern Ireland


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

The influential Secondary Legislative Scrutiny Committee has released a report which is highly critical of the UK Government’s approach to imposing abortion on Northern Ireland.

The Committee has highlighted a number of concerns with the new regulations including the following:

  • “Public consultation began on 4 November 2019 and lasted for a period of six weeks. In our view this is too short for so sensitive a topic. Added to which, it took place during the General Election period and in the run up to Christmas, neither of which conforms with best practice. ” (pg. 10, para 43)
  • “While acknowledging that due to the current coronavirus crisis, Ministers have had much to occupy them, we find it regrettable that the Government chose to lay so controversial an instrument just as a recess started and, more importantly, so close to the implementation date set out in the 2019 Act, thereby denying Parliament an opportunity for scrutiny before the instrument came into effect.” (pg. 11, para 46)
  • “Of the over 21,000 responses received, 79% registered general opposition to any change to the established position in Northern Ireland.” (pg. 11, para 43)

A majority of submissions received by the Committee were critical of the regulations. This included submissions from across the community in Northern Ireland including disability groups, MPs, MLAs, charities and the Attorney General of Northern Ireland.

The Attorney General, John Larkin QC, was critical of disability provisions in the regulation which allow for abortions for disabilities including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome right up to birth. 

Right To Life UK also raised a number of problems with the regulations in a submission which it asked the Committee to draw to the attention of the House. 

The Committee has raised these concerns ahead of the regulations being voted by MPs and Peers ahead of 17 May 2020.

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

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

They 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.  

The influential Committee has chosen to draw these regulations to the special attention of the House. The Committee has reported on a number of serious issues with the regulations. MPs and Peers at Westminster must take on board these problems and vote against the regulations when they are brought before Parliament.” 


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