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Press release – NI minister grilled by large group of MPs on giving himself sweeping new powers to impose expanded abortion on NI

Northern Ireland Secretary to be given new powers to expand abortion in Northern Ireland


NI minister grilled by large group of MPs on giving himself sweeping new powers to impose expanded abortion on NI

This morning Carla Lockhart MP led the charge alongside 11 other MPs, in an urgent question to the Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, on giving himself the power to impose expanded abortion on Northern Ireland. 

Carla Lockhart MP highlighted that the action of the UK Government represents a breach of the Belfast Agreement and undermines and destabilises the devolved institutions. She further questioned his legal basis of intervention in this area.

Lockhart said, “I know the Secretary of State shares my support for the Union, but does he not understand that at the heart of the devolution settlement must be a respect for those areas which have been determined to be for the devolved authorities? There is still time for the Secretary of State to think again before he takes this action, which will undermine and further destabilise the devolved institutions. Mr Speaker, it is time for the Government to recognise the errors of their way and repeal section 9 and restore Northern Ireland’s life affirming laws”.

Carla Lockhart MP was followed by a large number of MPs from who condemned Brandon Lewis for giving himself the power to impose abortion on Northern Ireland.

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, raised the issue that an overwhelming majority of people of NI oppose the UK Government imposing abortion on Northern Ireland and they should be allowed to run their own affairs. 

Leigh said, “The abortion industry talks about the right to choose. What about the right to choose for the people of NI? What would happen if they tried to impose their views on us? The fact of the matter is that NI can run its own government as long as it keeps doing things that we do not disagree with. This is not democracy. Whatever your views on abortion, the SoS is putting the union at risk”. 

Fiona Bruce MP asked the Secretary of State if it was true that the legislation was based on the incorrect assumption that Northern Ireland was in violation of human rights obligations. She said, “Isn’t it correct that that CEDAW committee’s report is not binding in international law, and isn’t it the case that this Parliament chose to treat certain assertions in that report as binding, but that surely is no answer to the unwarranted and unwanted imposition of this legislation on Northern Ireland’s people now that their Assembly is back up and running”.

The UK government intervention has been “vigorously opposed” by the Democratic Unionists who have also described the move as an “over-reach” of his office. Jeffrey Donaldson MP for Lagan Valley highlighted this morning that local ministers should decide what services to commission and it is not for Westminster to impose its view in breach of the devolution settlement. 

Donaldson said, “We want to see women in Northern Ireland have access to the best healthcare of course, but we also believe passionately in protecting the life of the unborn child in Northern Ireland. And that is a view shared right across our society; it is the view of the majority in the NI assembly”.

Right to Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson said about this morning’s urgent questions: “The Northern Ireland secretary has given himself sweeping new powers to directly undermine devolution to force expanded abortion on Northern Ireland. This is while there is a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been elected by the people of Northern Ireland, to make decisions on devolved matters including abortion. This extraordinary move is essentially direct rule from Westminster”.

She continued, “The passing of the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill by such an overwhelming majority of MLAs and the huge public support behind this Bill shows that there is no appetite for further Westminster imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland. Sadly though, it appears the Government will hardly likely let a trifle like ‘the will of the people’ and ‘respect for sovereignty’ get in the way of their plans to expand abortion access at all costs”.

The issue is also expected to be discussed by the Stormont Executive when it meets this afternoon. 


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