Government recognises large numbers of pro-life voices during debate on proposed abortion framework in Northern Ireland

A number of pro-life MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their dismay that Westminster is continuing with its plans to impose an extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland. 

The debate, which took place in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening, heard politicians rally in defence of unborn children, to respect devolution in Northern Ireland and to reverse Westminster’s extreme abortion regime imposed upon Northern Ireland.

Opening the debate, in place of Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, a Minister for Northern Ireland and Conservative MP Robin Walker said: “the Government are working towards the laying of regulations for a new legal framework for the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, as required by the 2019 Act.” 

He confirmed the new framework will be in force by 31 March 2020.

However, a number of MPs have expressed deep concern that the proposed legislation goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 and could lead to abortion, for any reason, up to 24 weeks.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said she was deeply concerned by the width and breadth of the consultation raising concerns in her mind about possible changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland going much further than anticipated.

She added: “I am deeply concerned that the abortion framework that may be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office might go far beyond those three circumstances. For example, it may allow for access to abortion on request for any reason up to 12 weeks’ gestation, and then up to 24 weeks.”

Fiona Bruce also revealed that a number of clinicians in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned about their right to ​conscientiously object to engagement in abortion treatment procedures, and may not be given the same protections they have in England and Wales.

DUP MP Jim Shannon echoed Fiona Bruce’s concerns – that the proposed changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland go further than required, quoting the expert legal opinion of David Scoffield QC which stated:

“The question posed to me is essentially whether, if the… Secretary of State… determined to do no more than necessary to comply with his strict legal obligations under the 2019 Act, the proposals set out in the consultation go beyond this… I consider it to be relatively simple to conclude that the answer to this question is ‘yes’.”

Jim Shannon then asked the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider their “radical proposals”, saying they “constitute a clear political choice on the part of the NIO to undermine devolution to a greater extent than the 2017 to 2019 Parliament required…, which would effectively lead to abortion on request for any reason between 12 or 14 weeks’ and 22 or 24 weeks’ gestation.”

Under one of the proposed options being consulted on, abortion could be available for any reason, up to birth, for babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, club foot and other perceived disabilities.

Dr Lisa Cameron, who received hundreds of abusive messages and a threat of deselection for voting against imposing extreme abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, raised concerns from the Don’t Screen Us Out community, who are particularly concerned about the scope of the regulations and the impact on families with Down’s syndrome children.

“I hope that the Minister will comment on whether there has been consultation with that group [Don’t Screen Us Out], because, as I am sure the hon. Lady would agree, that would be very helpful.”

In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, DUP MP Carla Lockhart defended the right to life of unborn babies and called for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.

“I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ’No, mummy!’

“It is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, have published consultation proposals to introduce changes that go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament.”

However, Alliance MP Stephen Farry stated he was “content” that Westminster had ignored devolution and imposed extreme legislation on Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Tony Lloyd seemed to agree with the sentiment saying: “if the Assembly were to legislate contrary to the UK Government’s establishment of a process for safe and legal abortion, our efforts would have been futile.”

Closing the debate, Robin Walker, stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland, he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people, who I am happy to meet to try to address their concerns further, to ensure that we take this forward in the best possible way and in a way that is respectful of the concerns in the community in Northern Ireland and more widely.”

Pro-life MP uses maiden speech to defend the right to life of unborn babies and calls for a culture of choosing life

A pro-life MP has used her maiden speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday to defend the right to life of unborn babies and calls for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart made her encouraging remarks during a debate on a recent report from the Northern Ireland Office on Westminster’s plans to impose extreme abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

Carla Lockhart won the Northern Ireland seat of Upper Bann with a majority of over 8,000. 

In her speech, Ms Lockhart said:

“I now move to the motion at hand, and particularly the report concerning abortion. I feel it is imperative that I speak on this to attempt again to highlight the anger, disappointment and frustration concerning the change in abortion laws that have been foisted upon the people of Northern Ireland. These changes came in the most roughshod way, with complete contempt for the devolved Administration and the views of the people of Northern Ireland. I want today to make the point to this House, on behalf of the many thousands of people across Northern Ireland who take a pro-life stance, that we want to repeal section 9 with immediate effect and allow for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate, discuss and evidence-gather on this emotive issue.

“The Secretary of State has not intervened to assist in our crumbling healthcare system, or to fairly reward our healthcare workers or to avert the mental health crisis we are facing. He hasn’t done that because, in his own words,  he has said that these are ‘devolved issues’. Abortion was and should be a devolved matter, yet this House has imposed on Northern Ireland the most extreme measures of abortion anywhere across Europe.

“Northern Ireland has been a country that has always supported life-affirming laws. Back in 1967, our politicians said no to the ‘67 Abortion Act, and according to research conducted by Both Lives Matter, 100,000 people are alive today. England and Wales back then did support the Act, and as a result over 8 million babies have been aborted—three every minute, 23 every hour or 561 every day, and that’s only a small percentage of them being aborted on the grounds of sexual crime or fatal foetal abnormality.

“Great credence has been given to the CEDAW report and the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) mentioned the three instances. However, we believe that the abortion framework that looks likely to be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office will go far beyond allowing abortion on these grounds. It is my understanding that no consultation will take place on the legislative text of the regulations. With regard to abortion, it is well known that the detail of the text is crucial. The ask on that is that we, at least, as parliamentarians are ​consulted before the specific text is laid, and I welcome the Minister’s commitment to meet those Members who are concerned in that regard.

“In Northern Ireland, abortion on request for any reason will be legalised to the point at which a baby is ‘capable of being born alive’.

“This includes on the grounds of disability. I implore my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister to accede to the request to have section 9 repealed as part of the ongoing negotiations. The DUP are a pro-life party, but this actually crosses traditional boundaries and there is widespread cross-community support across Northern Ireland. We have an evolving political landscape, and I say let the people of Northern Ireland have their say on this matter.

“On this, Mr Speaker, I will bring my remarks to a close. I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ‘No, mummy!’ Mr Speaker, it is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, has published consultation proposals to introduce changes which go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament. If the Government wants to maintain any commitment to devolution, I would implore them to rethink their coach-and-horses approach to a life-and-death piece of legislation.”

Closing the debate, Conservative MP Robin Walker stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland,  he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people.”

After the debate, Ms Lockhart posted on Facebook “This evening I had the honour of making my maiden speech as the MP for Upper Bann. Whilst I did take the time to highlight and showcase this great constituency I represent, it was also an opportunity to speak on the debate covering the introduction of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.

“I am unapologetically pro-life and look forward to challenging the Government on this alongside other pro-life members from across the House.”

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

“It was hugely encouraging to see a new MP use her maiden speech to speak out so clearly about the right to life for the unborn.

“This is further evidence that supports our analysis which concludes that the make-up of the new parliament is significantly more pro-life than the previous one.

“We share in Ms Lockhart’s disappointment and frustration concerning the imposition of extreme abortion laws in Northern Ireland by a Government who claims to support the devolution settlement. 

“We will support Carla and other MPs in their efforts to hold the Government to account on their words in regard to devolution, as doing so will help protect the lives of unborn babies in Northern Ireland.”

Pro-abortion MP confirms plan to hijack Domestic Abuse Bill with extreme abortion proposals

Diana Johnson MP has announced her intention to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill with a radical amendment to introduce extreme abortion legislation to England & Wales.

Speaking at the Second Reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill, the pro-abortion MP championed a similar amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, that could see abortion for any reason up to 28-weeks imposed up on the province. 

She declared it was time to do the same in this Bill, to introduce the same extreme abortion regime to England and Wales.

In July, in the absence of a functioning Stormont government, Westminster voted for an amendment to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offence Against the Person Act in Northern Ireland if Stormont’s Executive is not restored by 21 October.

Johnson is expected to introduce a similar amendment to change the law in England and Wales, to the Domestic Abuse Bill, during the Bill’s Committee Stage.

Repealing these provisions would introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up until when a child is capable of being born alive with a ceiling of 28 weeks to England and Wales, removing almost all the legal safeguards around abortion provided by the Abortion Act.

This would leave England and Wales with one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world and would be the biggest change to abortion legislation since 1967.

All other MPs who spoke on the topic of abortion, during yesterday’s Second Reading, were united in their criticism of Johnson and her plans to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill, which would remove protections for unborn babies with a disability and allow sex-selective abortion.

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller, commented that while some MPs had been quite open about their wish to change abortion law, the Domestic Abuse Bill is not the place to do it.

“I make a plea not to Ministers but to colleagues. Members need to resist the temptation to use the Bill to remedy all the issues, concerns, and campaigns in recent years to do with domestic abuse. Some of them have been quite open about their wish to include abortion reform in the Bill, and while there is clearly a strong case for reform, with which I would agree, this is not the place to do it. I do not believe that we have the time in this Parliament to give that issue the attention that it demands. My plea is for a separate Bill, sponsored by a Back-Bench MP in the usual way, to deal with that, and to deal with it swiftly.”

Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce said pointed to the unforeseen circumstances about to play out in Northern Ireland as a reason why the issue of extensive abortion reform “should not be undertaken by using Back-Bench amendments to an unrelated Bill.”

She added: “To learn our lesson on this, we need only look to the unforeseen circumstances now about to play out, sadly, in Northern Ireland later this month, with a five-month lacuna in the law on abortion there about to start because this place rushed through, with completely inadequate scrutiny, amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill.”

Pro-life MP criticises move to hijack Domestic Abuse Bill with abortion on demand

Huw Merriman said, “it is essential that the Bill remains roughly in a shape that allows it to succeed”.

“I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) about abortion reform, which I very much favour, I do not believe this is the right Bill to deliver that reform”, he added.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“It is highly inappropriate for pro-abortion MPs to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill in a way that not only undermines its support for victims of domestic abuse and their families but also removes current legal safeguards for unborn babies, allowing abortion for any reason up to 28 weeks.

“Diana Johnson’s horrific amendment would introduce one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world right across England and Wales.“

ComRes polling from 2017 showed the majority of people want the time limit for abortion to be reduced, to below 20 weeks, not increased. Should Diana Johnson follow through in her threats and introduce her radical abortion amendment, we hope MPs will take note that the majority of people do not want this and swiftly reject her proposals.

MPs decry ‘total legal chaos’ that will result from NI’s new abortion regime

A Government Report on the implementation of a new abortion regime in Northern Ireland has been heavily criticised from across the House of Commons with MPs decrying the “total legal chaos” that will result from it.

Without any regulatory or legal framework on abortion before 28 weeks, abortions could be performed almost anywhere, including schools; there would be no requirement for parental consent or involvement for under 16s; there would be no requirement to see a doctor; abortion on the grounds of the sex of the baby would become legal; and as in England and Wales, the state will have the authority to force a woman to have an abortion against her will.

If the new abortion regime comes into effect with no law or framework governing abortion up until the 28th week of pregnancy, it will result in what Ian Paisley MP decried as “total legal chaos”.

Following on from this in a debate in the House of Commons yesterday evening (09/09) MP, Fiona Bruce, questioned how the new law will deal with the issue of forced abortions. In removing the current law, it will no longer be clear how to prosecute someone who forces a woman to undergo an abortion.

She also drew attention to the fact that without any regulatory framework, abortions could take place well past the point at which a child could survive outside of the womb. Ms Bruce described this situation as a “legal vacuum”.

The Report was supposed to review the current abortion law in Northern Ireland, and set out some details for how it will be overturned from the 21st October if Stormont does not reform.

However, in the estimation of a number of MPs from Northern Ireland as well as Conservative and Labour politicians, it failed to do that.

The Report follows a weekend of demonstrations in Belfast where tens of thousands of people rallied against the imposition of this extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland.

The debate takes place as the Government’s Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act – initially designed to extend the period for the formation of an Executive in Northern Ireland – is set to radically alter the abortion law in Northern Ireland if the law comes into effect on the 21st October.

Currently, Northern Ireland has strong protections in law for unborn babies, but the new law set to be imposed by Westminster – without the support of a single MP from Northern Ireland sitting in the House of Commons – will repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act, upon which the abortion law in Northern Ireland is based. This will make abortion up until 28 weeks legal without any restriction.

If the Northern Ireland Assembly is able to reconvene before the 21st October, the abortion regime will not come into effect. However, MPs from the House of Commons have drawn attention to the inherent challenges of reconvening Stormont by this date because one of the main parties in that discussion, Sinn Féin, want Westminster’s extreme abortion law to come to Northern Ireland. As such, Sinn Féin have no incentive to reunify the Assembly.

There are around 100,000 people alive today who would otherwise not be, had the Abortion Act 1967 in the rest of Britain, been extended to that region.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said:

“Stormont has consistently rejected abortion and polling has shown that the majority of women in Northern Ireland (66% in general and 70% of 18-34 year olds) do not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster.”

“The Northern Ireland Act has been hijacked by pro-abortion politicians and the statistics and demonstrations from the weekend show that the people of Northern Ireland do not want this draconian abortion legislation.”