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.”

UK Government reaffirms commitment to Northern Ireland’s extreme abortion regulations

The UK Government has reaffirmed it will proceed with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland.

The Government were forced to redraft regulations following scrutiny from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments who said that they had been “defectively drafted”.

This offered them a chance to repeal some of the extreme provisions in the regulations, particularly following significant criticism from Northern Ireland politicians, disability advocacy groups and parents that they want far beyond what was legally required.

However, the redrafted regulations published this morning appear to be materially the same as the original regulations with the drafting errors fixed. 

This means Northern Ireland’s extreme abortion regime will remain unchanged and in place until MPs and Peers vote on them, likely before 22 June. 

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.

The Government will then be forced to redraft the regulations for a third time 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.

Sadly, abortions will still be able to take place in Northern Ireland throughout this period and abortion activists and providers may lobby for further extreme measures.  

However, the delay also means that those who are pro-life have more time to persuade MPs and Peers to reject the regulations when the vote finally happens.

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

The new regime, which also allows de facto abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks and disability abortion right up to birth, came into force as law on 31 March.

Despite 79% of consultation respondents stating opposition to changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, the UK Government went far beyond what was legally required of them when they imposed radical changes to the law governing terminations in the province.

Last month, an influential House of Lords committee released a highly critical report raising significant concerns over the Government’s approach in imposing the extreme abortion regime. 

In his submission to the committee, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General said that the UK Government exceeded its powers as it radically changed abortion law in the province.

John Larkin QC said: “This is of political and legal significance and, given that the relevant judgement call is best made by a local legislature, it may be inappropriate for the provision to have been so limited in light of the changed political context.”

The Attorney General also told the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee it was “disproportionate” to require healthcare professionals in any capacity “to act contrary to their conscience” and that it “would have been possible” for Westminster to introduce broader conscience protections.

And, earlier this month, Northern Ireland peer Baroness Nuala O’Loan called on Northern Ireland residents to “make their voices heard” and demand the new extreme abortion regime regulations are not approved.

A 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 also introduce defacto abortion-on-demand to Northern Ireland through to 24-weeks. 

“Additionally, abortion provision will be opened up 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.  

“MPs and Peers at Westminster must take on board these problems and vote against the regulations when they are brought before Parliament.

“We urge those across the UK to save lives and protect unborn babies by using this extra time to contact MPs and Peers urging them to reject the redrafted regulations.

“If you have already emailed your MP, please use the opportunity this extra time provides to encourage more friends and family to write to their MPs.”

UK Government to rewrite abortion regulations for Northern Ireland

The UK Government has announced they will rewrite the controversial Northern Ireland abortion regulations which were due to be voted on by MPs tomorrow.

The extreme abortion regulations had been condemned by Northern Ireland politicians, criticised by a highly influential House of Lords committee, disability advocacy groups and parents.

Additionally, thousands of people around the UK and across Northern Ireland have written to their local representatives calling on them to withdraw the legislation.

Unfortunately, it is now expected that the Government will shortly re-table the regulations, with only minor unsubstantial changes. 

Once the regulations have been revised, the UK Government will then have a twenty-eight-day window to organise a vote of MPs on the redrafted regulations.

Sadly, abortions will still be able to take place in Northern Ireland throughout this period and abortion activists and providers may lobby for further extreme measures.  

However, the delay also means that those who are pro-life have more time to persuade MPs and Peers to reject the regulations when the vote finally happens.

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 redraft the regulations for a second time 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.

The rewriting of the regulation follows scrutiny from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments who said that they had been “defectively drafted”.

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

The new regime, which also allows de facto abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks and disability abortion right up to birth, came into force as law on 31 March.

Despite 79% of consultation respondents stating opposition to changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, the UK Government went far beyond what was legally required of them when they imposed radical changes to the law governing terminations in the province.

Last week, Northern Ireland peer Baroness Nuala O’Loan called on Northern Ireland residents to “make their voices heard” and demand the new extreme abortion regime regulations are not approved.

A Government spokesperson said: “Given the unprecedented situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact this has had on Parliamentary proceedings, we intend to remake these regulations on Monday, May 11, giving Parliament an additional 28 sitting days to consider them.

“The UK Government remains under a legal obligation to implement these regulations under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.”

A 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 also introduce defacto abortion-on-demand to Northern Ireland through to 24-weeks. 

“Additionally, abortion provision will be opened up 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.  

“MPs and Peers at Westminster must take on board these problems and vote against the regulations when they are brought before Parliament.

“We urge those across the UK to save lives and protect unborn babies by using this extra time to contact MPs and Peers urging them to reject the redrafted regulations.

“If you have already emailed your MP, please use the opportunity this extra time provides to encourage more friends and family to write to their MPs.”

NI Peer calls on people to ‘make their voices heard’ and demand the rejection of extreme abortion regime

A leading pro-life campaigner and member of the House of Lords has called on Northern Ireland residents to “make their voices heard” and demand the new extreme abortion regime regulations are not approved.

Baroness Nuala O’Loam told Irish News it would be “very wrong” if the extreme abortion regime was “approved without proper consideration and without taking into account the views of the people of Northern Ireland”.

Her comments come ahead of a parliamentary vote on the abortion regulations on 12 May. If MPs vote down the regulations on Tuesday 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 redraft the regulations to be less extreme or bring forward legislation to allow the new Parliament to vote revoke these regulations, giving back control to the people of Northern Ireland through the Northern Ireland Assembly.

URGENT: VOTE IS THIS TUESDAY

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

The new regime, which also allows de facto abortion for any reason up to 24 weeks and disability abortion right up to birth, came into force as law on 31 March.

Despite 79% of consultation respondents stating opposition to changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, the UK Government went far beyond what was legally required of them when they imposed radical changes to the law governing terminations in the province.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan says “the UK Government did not listen to the many responses from Northern Ireland opposing this law” and adds that “it is now time for the Assembly to make its voice heard, to debate the issue and to reclaim its power over abortion”.

URGENT: VOTE IS THIS TUESDAY

Last week, a highly influential House of Lords Committee criticised the UK Government over its approach in imposing abortion on Northern Ireland.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which scrutinises legislation parliament has granted the Government power to introduce, released a report highlighting a number of concerns with the new regulations.

In his submission to the committee, Northern Ireland’s Attorney General said that the UK Government exceeded its powers as it radically changed abortion law in the province.

John Larkin QC said: “This is of political and legal significance and, given that the relevant judgement call is best made by a local legislature, it may be inappropriate for the provision to have been so limited in light of the changed political context.”

The Attorney General also told the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee it was “disproportionate” to require healthcare professionals in any capacity “to act contrary to their conscience” and that it “would have been possible” for Westminster to introduce broader conscience protections.