Prime Minister receives huge petition against disability abortion from Heidi Crowter

Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman who has Down’s syndrome, has delivered an open letter to Boris Johnson against an abortion law which makes her feel like she would be “better off dead”.

The petition, which was signed by over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland, urges the Prime Minister and other British MPs to let the people of Northern Ireland decide its own abortions laws.

If the same proportion of the UK population signed a similar petition it would equate to over 600,000 people.

Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, politicians in Westminster voted to impose an extreme abortion regime on the province.

Under the new regulations abortion is allowed up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

MPs are scheduled to vote on whether to approve the extreme abortion regulations tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s vote follows the last Westminster vote on Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, almost one year ago, in which 100% of Northern Irish MPs present voted against the proposals.

However, abortion was imposed on Northern Ireland, regardless, because of the greater number of English, Welsh and Scottish MPs, enforcing their different view on the province.

Northern Irish MPs have continued to speak out against the changes and a number of them, including Carla Lockhart, joined Heidi today at Downing Street.

‘Downright discrimination in the womb’

Speaking at Downing Street, today, Heidi said: “I’m asking MPs to respect the vote of Northern Ireland and make sure that it stands and to allow equality in the womb for every baby.

“I want this to happen because I’m someone who has Down’s Syndrome and I feel that the law makes me upset, it makes me feel like I’m better off dead.

“I think it sends a really negative message.”

She added: “I think the law which allows abortion up to birth for non-fatal disabilities such as mine is downright discrimination in the womb.”

‘Both lives matter’

Carla Lockhart MP who launched the petition with Baroness O’Loan said:

“Today at Westminster, along with colleagues and Heidi Crowter, we have delivered a petition to the Government saying no to the extreme abortion regulations that are being forced on the people of Northern Ireland.

“Along with over 18,000 people from Northern Ireland who signed the petition, we want to send a clear message to the Government that the people of Northern Ireland do not want Westminster imposing these extreme abortion laws on them.

“Instead, we join with Heidi Crowter in saying ‘no’ to discriminatory disability-selective abortion.

“We join Heidi in saying both lives matter.

“It is not the right of this Government to implement such far-reaching abortion laws on Northern Ireland that will see abortion up to birth for disability.

“So, as the vote takes place I am urging Westminster MPs to allow the devolved region to legislate in regards to abortion.”

House of Lords approves UK Government’s extreme abortion regime for Northern Ireland

The House of Lords has voted 355 to 77 in favour of a motion approving the UK Government’s extreme abortion regime in Northern Ireland.

An amendment to the motion, put forward by Baroness O’Loan, calling on peers not to approve the regulations was also defeated, with 112 votes in favour and 388 against.

While tonight’s vote in the House of Lords is a defeat for pro-life campaigners and the people of Northern Ireland they may indicate a change in momentum in the House of Lords.

A far larger group of peers voted against the motion than those who opposed a motion in July 2019 to impose abortion on Northern Ireland, which was only opposed by 37 peers. This indicates that there has been a large increase in the number of active pro-life peers in the House of Lords.

In her amendment, Baroness O’Loan noted the extreme abortion regime has been rejected by the people of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In addition, her amendment brings attention to how the extreme abortion regime discriminates against those with a disability and allows sex-selective abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation.

Speaking in the House of Lords tonight, the former police commissioner reiterated that a majority of Northern Ireland’s 90 MLAs voted to reject the regulations and that 79% of consultation respondents were against any change in abortion law.

She also highlighted that over 18,000 people from the province have signed an open letter urging Westminster to let Northern Ireland decide its own abortion laws.

Pleading with her fellow peers, in her closing remarks, Baroness O’Loan said: “listen to the people of Northern Ireland, listen to our Assembly, do not approve these regulations.”

In his amendment, disabled peer Lord Shinkwin called on peers to decline the regulations on the grounds that they discriminate and perpetuate stereotypes against those with a disability.

The peer, who was born with a rare genetic brittle bone disease, told News Letter: “Although technically the regulations only relate to Northern Ireland, the whole UK Parliament is being invited to endorse them and to thereby legitimise disability discrimination.”

Lord Shinkwin did not take his amendment through to a vote.

‘A huge disappointment’

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: 

“Tonight’s vote in the House of Lords is not just a blow to the people of Northern Ireland and to the majority of MLAs, who voted against the extreme abortion regime at the Northern Ireland Assembly, but is also a huge disappointment for both pro-life campaigners and people with disabilities across the UK. 

“People such as Heidi Crowter and Lord Shinkwin who have expressed that the current law in the UK makes them ‘want to cry’ and tells them ‘they are better off dead’.”

“Following stirring speeches from the likes of Lord Alton, Baroness O’Loan, Lord Shinkwin, Lord Taylor of Warwick, Baroness Stroud, and Lord McCrea a far larger group of peers decided to vote against the regulations than did in 2019. 

This may indicate a change in momentum in the House of Lords with a large increase in the number of active pro-life peers in the House of Lords. 

“Thank you to the thousands of people around the country who have written to peers asking them to oppose these regulations. While we may not have been able to get the result we wanted tonight, your work helped get a far larger group of peers taking a pro-life position on these regulations. This provides an excellent starting point for building further support for positive pro-life changes to abortion legislation in the future.”

What happens next?

Following tonight’s votes in the House of Lord’s, MPs will vote on whether to approve the extreme abortion regime, with the vote likely to take place on Wednesday.

If MPs vote down the redrafted regulations it will send a very strong signal to the Government that these extreme regulations should not be imposed on Northern Ireland.

They will then be forced to, again, redraft the regulations to either be less extreme or bring forward legislation allowing parliament to vote on revoking the regulations.

The second of those options would give back control to the people of Northern Ireland through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Peers line up to condemn UK Govt over extreme abortion regulations

Peers in the House of Lords have lined up to condemn the Government over its handling of imposing an extreme abortion regime in Northern Ireland.

In a debate in the House of Lords on Monday 8th June, several Peers spoke boldly about how the UK Government and Parliament has ignored devolution and the people of Northern Ireland.

It is just the latest in a series of criticisms over the past week kickstarted by a House of Lords report raising concerns over the Government’s approach to imposing abortion on Northern Ireland. Criticism then arose from a large group of cross-party MPs in the House of Commons and then again in a Committee debating the legislation.

Sex-selective abortion permitted

Baroness O’Loan criticised the Government for drawing up extreme regulations which go much further than what was required of them.

The former police commissioner brought attention to how the regulations will allow sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand, up to 12 weeks and will discriminate against babies with disability allowing for abortion right up to birth.

Baroness O’Loan has spoken out against the Government’s extreme proposals since they were announced.

Shortly after the initial vote to impose abortion on Northern Ireland, last year, the pro-life peer strongly condemned the vote as being “reminiscent of colonial days” as it undermined the sovereignty of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland to make their own decisions about their own abortion law.

Last week, she launched an open letter calling on MPs to let Northern Ireland decide its own abortion laws – it already has over 13,000 signatures.

Baroness Eaton questioned the Government for ignoring the CEDAW report it claims its Northern Ireland abortion regulations are based on.

She said: “My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister say why Regulation 3, unlike the Abortion Act 1967, makes abortion on the basis of sex lawful in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy?

“Given that it is now possible to know the sex of the foetus between seven and 10 weeks, and that the CEDAW report expressly condemned sex-selective abortion, why does that regulation make it lawful? What meetings have the Government had with the organisation Stop Gendercide in considering how to define these regulations?”

Sex-selective abortion usually targets baby girls due to a preference among certain parents and some cultures for having sons. This is not speculation. This practice is already happening in other countries which have very permissive abortion laws. For example, abortion is available in Canada for any reason and as such, it has been described as a “haven” for parents wishing to have an abortion because their child is a girl.

There is also evidence of this practice in the UK and it is possible that a form of ‘abortion tourism’ will arise as people from other countries seek abortions on the basis of the sex of their child.

Northern Ireland is ‘united against the regulations’

Lord Kilclooney questioned whether the Government is wise to overrule the will of people in Northern Ireland, noting that the majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly are united against the extreme regulations.

He said: “the problem today is whether British parliamentarians—especially English parliamentarians—have the right to impose their standards on a devolved legislature.

“This issue has had a positive result in Northern Ireland, creating cross-community politics: cross-community opposition to the regulations and cross-community support for the regulations. But as has been mentioned, the Northern Ireland Assembly, by 78 votes out of a total membership of 90, united against the regulations.

“Will the Minister say whether the Northern Ireland Assembly has the right to amend the regulations? If the Minister of Health in Northern Ireland, with a mandate to oppose the regulations, takes no action, will Her Majesty’s Government abolish devolution in Northern Ireland?”

Ignoring the other questions the Government spokesperson, Viscount Younger of Leckie, responded that the regulations can be amended in Northern Ireland should that be wished in the future, but elsewhere in the debate reiterated the Government’s intention to implement them in their current extreme form.

‘There are so many ways in which these regulations are concerning’

Baroness Stroud said: “There are so many ways in which these regulations are concerning but, given all that we have been focused on in the last few months around protecting lives equally, it is extraordinary to me that the Government should present such a discriminatory provision, which is in direct violation of paragraph 85 of the CEDAW report.”

Under the new abortion regime (2.1.3), in Northern Ireland, abortion for disabilities will be available through to birth “if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental impairment as to be seriously disabled.”

In England and Wales, wording that has appeared similarly restrictive  (‘that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’) has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

In England and Wales – where abortion is available up until birth if a baby has a disability – people with disabilities are unjustly and disproportionately targeted by abortion legislation (see video segment here from the BBC Victoria Derbyshire Show where a mother was offered a termination at 38-weeks gestation).

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

Northern Ireland up to now has had a very different approach. Disability-selective abortion for Down’s syndrome is not permitted and there is a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome, in the same year, only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern simply questioned why the UK Government would seek to overrule the Executive when they are now happily active again?

Viscount Younger of Leckie said it was good news the Assembly is now up and running but claimed the Government were “obliged” to follow through with imposing the regulations.

However, this claim has been disputed by two of the UK’s top lawyers, Lord Brennan QC and Ian Leist QC, who have questioned the legitimacy of the extreme abortion regime.

In a submission to the House of Lords Committee the pair described last month’s decision to re-table the regulations four months after the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly as “constitutionally indefensible”.

They add: “The Government should not have re-tabled but should instead be asking parliament to repeal Section 9. This again is a matter of fundamental legal and political importance that I would suggest must be brought to the attention of the House.”

Repealing section 9 of the regulations would give the people of Northern Ireland the power to decide its own abortion legislation.