Northern Ireland Assembly votes to reject Westminster imposed abortion regulations

The Northern Ireland Assembly has passed a motion opposing the extreme abortion regime which had been imposed on the province by the UK Government.

New abortion regulations were drawn up by Westminster last year in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly. They came into force in March.

But, yesterday, MLAs voted to reject the extreme abortion regulations by 46 votes to 40.

The motion, was tabled in response to Heidi Crowter, the 24-year-old disability campaigner, who has spoken out against the proposal of the UK Government to impose on Northern Ireland abortion up to birth in cases of disabilities like Heidi’s own, Down’s syndrome.

In proposing the motion MLA Joanne Bunting referred to how Heidi said the law was “offensive and hurtful”.

Ms Bunting added that, as Heidi argued, the law was clearly saying “that people with Down’s syndrome or other disabilities are of less value that people with without disabilities”.

Welcoming the outcome of the debate, DUP MLA Paul Givan said: “The Assembly has now rejected these extreme abortion regulations on the basis of how they discriminate against the unborn especially those with disabilities.”

He added: “The regulations imposed by Westminster have led to Northern Ireland having the most liberal abortion regime in Europe.

“This approach undermined the devolution settlement, but worst of all facilitated the ending of so many precious lives. That is something that the majority of people here in Northern Ireland are against.”

MPs and Peers at the UK Parliament are due to vote later this month on whether to approve or reject regulations that introduce an extreme abortion regime to Northern Ireland.

Whilst the vote at the Northern Ireland Assembly will not directly change the law in Northern Ireland, it has sent a very strong message to the UK Government, MPs and Peers at Westminster that Northern Ireland reject these regulations being imposed on the province. 

This will make it much more difficult for MPs and Peers to vote to impose these regulations on Northern Ireland when they have been resoundingly rejected by the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

If MPs and Peers vote down the redrafted regulations later this month, the UK Government will then be forced to draft the regulations for a third time to be either 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.

Polling organised by the University of Liverpool and Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council has shown that 58% of Sinn Féin voters and 54% of DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24 weeks, which is in line with what the Government has introduced to Northern Ireland.

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

“Tonight’s vote has made it clear that the UK Government must urgently hand back this devolved matter to the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland at the Assembly.

“The UK Government and Westminster now have absolutely no mandate whatsoever to impose these extreme regulations on Northern Ireland. 

79% of respondents to the Government consultation on these regulations were opposed to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond what was previously permitted. 

“Polling shows the majority of Sinn Féin and DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24 weeks, which is in line with what the Government will be introducing to Northern Ireland. This polling shows a clear rejection from the people of Northern Ireland for the UK Government’s regulations. If the devolution settlement of Stormont is to be respected, the cross-community view against this extreme abortion framework must be respected.

“With Stormont having been restored for over five months, it is vital that the people of Northern Ireland have a say on their country’s new abortion framework through their elected representatives in the Northern Irish Assembly. It’s time to end this blatant undermining of devolution and hand back control on this devolved issue to Northern Ireland.” 

Voted in favour of the motion 🙂

  • Andy Allen, UUP
  • Jim Allister, Traditional Unionist Voice
  • Rosemary Barton, UUP
  • Paula Bradley, DUP
  • Maurice Bradley, DUP
  • Sinéad Bradley, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Thomas Buchanan, DUP
  • Keith Buchanan, DUP
  • Jonathan Buckley, DUP
  • Joanne Bunting, DUP
  • Robbie Butler, UUP
  • Pam Cameron, DUP
  • Pat Catney, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Alan Chambers, UUP
  • Trevor Clarke, DUP
  • Diane Dodds, DUP
  • Gordon Dunne, DUP
  • Mark Durkan, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Alex Easton, DUP
  • Arlene Foster, DUP
  • Paul Frew, DUP
  • Paul Givan, DUP
  • Harry Harvey, DUP
  • David Hilditch, DUP
  • William Humphrey, DUP
  • William Irwin, DUP
  • Dolores Kelly, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Gordon Lyons, DUP
  • Chris Lyttle, Alliance
  • Nichola Mallon, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Daniel McCrossan, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Patsy McGlone, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Colin McGrath, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Michelle McIlveen, DUP
  • Justin McNulty, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Gary Middleton, DUP
  • Mike Nesbitt, UUP
  • Robin Newton, DUP
  • Edwin Poots, DUP
  • George Robinson, DUP
  • Christopher Stalford, DUP
  • John Stewart, UUP
  • Mervyn Storey, DUP
  • Robin Swann, UUP
  • Peter Weir, DUP
  • Jim Wells, Independent Unionist

Voted against the motion 🙁

  • Kellie Armstrong, Alliance
  • John Blair, Alliance
  • Paula Bradshaw, Alliance
  • Stewart Dickson, Alliance
  • Naomi Long, Alliance
  • Trevor Lunn, Independent
  • Andrew Muir, Alliance
  • Clare Bailey, Green
  • Rachel Woods, Green
  • Claire Sugden, Independent
  • Gerry Carroll, People Before Profit Alliance
  • Caoimhe Archibald, Sinn Féin
  • Cathal Boylan, Sinn Féin
  • Linda Dillon, Sinn Féin
  • Jemma Dolan, Sinn Féin
  • Sinéad Ennis, Sinn Féin
  • Órlaithí Flynn, Sinn Féin
  • Colm Gildernew, Sinn Féin
  • Deisre Hargey, Sinn Féin
  • Declan Kearney, Sinn Féin
  • Catherine Kelly, Sinn Féin
  • Liz Kimmins, Sinn Féin
  • Sean Lynch, Sinn Féin
  • Declan McAleer, Sinn Féin
  • Fra McCann, Sinn Féin
  • Philip McGuigan, Sinn Féin
  • Maolíosa McHugh, Sinn Féin
  • Karen Mullan, Sinn Féin
  • Conor Murphy, Sinn Féin
  • Carál Ní Chuilín, Sinn Féin
  • John O’Dowd, Sinn Féin
  • Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin
  • Emma Rogan, Sinn Féin
  • Pat Sheehan, Sinn Féin
  • Emma Sheerin, Sinn Féin
  • Gerry Kelly, Sinn Féin
  • Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin
  • Sinead McLaughlin, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Matthew O’Toole, Social Democratic and Labour Party
  • Steve Aiken, UUP

Abstained

  • Cara Hunter, Social Democratic and Labour Party

Time to debate bikes but not Westminster forcing abortion for Down’s syndrome up to birth on NI, MLAs ignore pleas of thousands

Thousands of people are demanding members of the Northern Ireland Assembly hold an urgent debate and vote on abortion law to show they reject abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome and other disabilities.

It comes after the Assembly found time to debate regulations relating to electric pedal cycles but have, so far, not found time to distance itself from the Conservative Government’s extreme abortion regime.

On 12 May, six weeks after the regime came into effect, MLAs debated and voted in favour of allowing electric bikes on Northern Ireland roads but are yet to discuss abortion.

Disability advocacy campaigners are now questioning the priorities of their local representatives saying the right to life of unborn babies should be debated before bikes.

Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, the UK Parliament voted to impose abortion on the province.

Although 79% of consultation respondents stating opposition to any changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, the Conservative Government announced on 25 March they would impose an extreme abortion regime on the province.

Last week, the UK Government reaffirmed its commitment to those changes despite significant criticism the radical changes go far beyond what is legally required of them.

A parliamentary vote on the extreme abortion regime is expected by 22 June.

Despite now meeting two days a week and having found time to debate electric pedal cycles, the Assembly still hasn’t found time to debate abortion.

One of those calling for a debate is Heidi Crowter, the 24-year-old disability campaigner, with Down’s syndrome.

She wrote to MLAs last week asking them to take a lead and do everything they can to oppose “hurtful and offensive” laws allowing discriminatory disability-selective abortions up to the point of birth.

In her letter, Heidi said: “Boris Johnson’s Government did not have to introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome up to birth to Northern Ireland. They chose to do this.

“That’s both hurtful and offensive. My life has as much value as anyone else’s.

“I am asking all MLA’s (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to reject Westminster’s regulations – please don’t vote for more discrimination against people like me.”

She added: “Do not make the mistake which was made in Great Britain in allowing discrimination against people like me just because we happen to have Down’s syndrome.

“Please let Northern Ireland continue to be a country where disabled people are valued.

“Please do not let a law come into practice which will end lives on the basis of disability and stop people like me coming into the world.”

Prior to Northern Ireland’s extreme abortion regime coming into effect, the province embraced a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability, rather than eliminating them.

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

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

Additionally, last year it was revealed pregnant mothers who refuse to abort their children with Down’s syndrome are being pressured by some medical professionals to change their decision – even at 38 weeks’ gestation.

Disability campaigners are now fearful the same disregard for the life of disabled children could soon become commonplace in Northern Ireland if discriminatory disability-selective abortions become law permanently.

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

“The Northern Ireland Assembly is supposed to represent the voice of the people of Northern Ireland.

“Yet, their silence on this matter to date has been deafening.

“The majority of those in Northern Ireland are opposed to any permanent change in abortion law and would rather see MLAs debate babies before bikes. 

“Please write to your local MLAs asking them to seek an urgent debate and vote on a resolution to this matter, distancing Northern Ireland from Whitehall’s profoundly ill-conceived abortion disability proposal.”

Update and action alert for people living in Northern Ireland

The British Government have now brought forward rewritten abortion regulations for Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, they have only made some minor unsubstantial changes to fix some small drafting errors. So we are still dealing with the same extreme abortion regulations.

The new rewritten regulations will be voted on in the Commons and the Lords, we expect this to happen at some stage in June.

DOWN’S SYNDROME CAMPAIGNER’S BRAVE INTERVENTION

You may have read in the media about the brave intervention made by Heidi Crowter, the 24-year-old disability campaigner who has spoken out against the British Government imposing on Northern Ireland abortion up to birth in cases of disabilities like Heidi’s own, Down’s syndrome. This has been picked up in the media across the UK and also internationally including a very good segment from one of Sky News Australia’s key commentators.

Heidi has written to the Party Leaders at Stormont within the last week, asking them to take action and do everything they can to oppose abortion on the basis of disability up to birth. She said: “Please do not let a law come into practice which will end lives on the basis of disability and stop people like me coming into the world.”

TAKE ACTION

Now that the Assembly is meeting two days a week it’s vital for MLAs to press their Party Leaders and Chief Whips for time to be set aside for an urgent debate and vote on a motion that demonstrates to Heidi and other people with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland, that Northern Ireland opposes any move to allow babies with Down’s syndrome to be aborted up until birth. 

While this will not change the law at this stage, it will send a very important message to the British Government and MPs who are due to vote on these regulations in June.

The British Government announced on 25 March that it was imposing on Northern Ireland abortion on the basis of disability up to birth. In the last week, the Assembly found time to debate Regulations relating to electric pedal cycles but still has not deemed it appropriate to find time to distance itself from the British Government’s extreme abortion regime which has been imposed on Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is the voice of the people of Northern Ireland. Their silence on this matter to date has been deafening. 

If you live in Northern Ireland, please click the button below to email your local MLAs asking them to seek an urgent debate and vote on a resolution on this matter. It only takes 30-seconds.

Thank you for your help on this.