PM will leave “legacy of discrimination and death” if disability abortion forced on Northern Ireland

Lord Shinkwin has said Theresa May will leave a “legacy of discrimination and death”  if disability abortion is forced on Northern Ireland. He also said the abortion amendment suggests people diagnosed with a disability before birth “would only be considered good enough for the incinerator.”

In the final debate in the House of Lords over extreme abortion amendments added to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, Lord Kevin Shinkwin attacked the abortion amendment, citing the damage it will do to people with disabilities and the legacy the outgoing Prime Minister will leave behind.

Lord Shinkwin, who himself has a disability, said:

“I am good enough to sit in your Lordships’ House, but this Bill suggests that someone diagnosed before birth with a disability such as mine in Northern Ireland would only be considered good enough for the incinerator.”

“Because that is the brutal message of this Bill: if you are diagnosed with a disability before birth in Northern Ireland, you will not just be worth less than a non-disabled human being; you will be worthless—you would be better off dead. What a dreadful message for this House to send the people of Northern Ireland, without even having consulted them in advance.”

Lord Shinkwin went on to read out part of a letter from more than 700 people with Down’s syndrome and their families addressed to the Prime Minister. The letter read:

“Theresa May, do you really want to look back at your time in Parliament and see one of your final acts being to introduce a change in the law that would be discriminating against our community and likely lead to many more babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted in a time of equality?”

In England and Wales, 90% of human beings diagnosed before ​birth with Down’s syndrome are aborted. In the last 10 years there as been a 42% increase in abortion of human beings with Down’s syndrome.

“If human beings diagnosed before birth with disabilities such as mine were wild animals, they would be given endangered species status and protected by law.”

“But we are only disabled human beings, so instead we face gradual extinction. That is what this Bill imposes on Northern Ireland, without consultation.”

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Full text of Lord Shinkwin’s speech

Lord Shinkwin

My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendments 16 and 16A. We have already heard how understandably upset the people and the politicians of Northern Ireland are at not having been consulted about our imposing massive changes on them on such hugely sensitive issues. But what we have not heard are the views of disabled people in Northern Ireland. For the simple fact is that, if the Bill becomes law, human beings in Northern Ireland with conditions like mine will suffer the death penalty for the crime of being diagnosed with a disability before birth.

I asked my noble friend the Minister several questions in Committee on Monday; he answered not one of them, so I will have another try. First, can he tell me what consultation has been carried out of people with Down’s syndrome or their families in Northern Ireland? The Prime Minister prides herself on the Government’s professed commitment to equality, so perhaps my noble friend the Minister could tell the House what effort the Government have made to establish how people with Down’s syndrome and their families in Northern Ireland feel about the prospect of human beings with Down’s syndrome being aborted and denied their equal right to exist? I would be very happy to give way if my noble friend would care to answer.

Lord Duncan of Springbank

Absolutely. This remains, at present, a fully devolved matter, and that consultation would be undertaken by the devolved entity. At the present time there is no devolved entity, and that consultation has not been undertaken by those MLAs or by the restored Executive; it is not there. We have been able to move this matter forward only since the instruction of the other place only a short time ago.

Lord Shinkwin

I thank my noble friend for his answer. In that case, I hope very much that he will accept Amendments 16 and 16A, since he has just emphasised his commitment to consultation.

Lord Duncan of Springbank

I would not normally stand up at this point, but it is important to note that the consultation envisaged in the early amendments, which have already passed, would have that full consultation because disabled people in Northern Ireland are a protected group.

Lord Shinkwin

I wonder whether my noble friend could possibly help me with this question. Could he tell me why—

Baroness Smith of Basildon

May I suggest that if the noble Lord wants the Minister to answer questions, he makes his speech and the Minister answers at the end? That would be a courtesy to the House, and more helpful.

Lord Shinkwin

The question is actually directly related to the House, so if I may I will continue.

I wonder if my noble friend, or indeed anyone in the House, could tell me why—I can quite understand why the noble Baroness would perhaps not like me to ask this question—as someone who was born with a disability, I am good enough to sit in your Lordships’ House, but this Bill suggests that someone diagnosed before birth with a disability such as mine in Northern Ireland would only be considered good enough for the incinerator. Because that is the brutal message of this Bill: if you are diagnosed with a disability before birth in Northern Ireland, you will not just be worth less than a non-disabled human being; you will be worthless—you would be better off dead. What a dreadful message for this House to send the people of Northern Ireland, without even having consulted them in advance.

As a disabled person, I am used to people feeling sorry for me, but today it is I who feel sorry for my party. What a desperately sad position this Bill puts my party in. Not only does it make a mockery of any pretence at government neutrality on a matter of conscience; it also enshrines inequality in law for Northern Ireland—and all this without consulting the people of Northern Ireland or their MLAs. How ironic that this is happening just before we celebrate a quarter of a century since my party, the Conservative Party, introduced the Disability Discrimination Act, which championed disability equality.

Perhaps saddest of all is the legacy the Prime Minister leaves if this Bill becomes law—a legacy of discrimination and death. Instead of ending burning injustices, if this Bill becomes law she will be leaving office after the creation of one of the biggest burning injustices imaginable.

Earlier this evening, my noble friend the Minister read out part of a letter to the Prime Minister concerning the amendments on same-sex marriage. I will do the same, only mine is a letter to the Prime Minister from more than 500 people with Down’s syndrome and their families. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister has it in his briefing pack—perhaps not. This is what they say:

“Theresa May, do you really want to look back at your time in Parliament and see one of your final acts being to introduce a change in the law that would be discriminating against our community and likely lead to many more babies with Down’s syndrome being aborted in a time of equality”.

How do they know the likely death toll for Down’s syndrome diagnosis? They know because in England and Wales, 90% of human beings diagnosed before ​birth with Down’s syndrome are already aborted. Indeed, while the last 10 years have seen amazing advances in medicine and technology, they have also seen a 42% increase in abortion of human beings with Down’s syndrome.

So, the writing is on the wall. If human beings diagnosed before birth with disabilities such as mine were wild animals, they would be given endangered species status and protected by law. But we are only disabled human beings, so instead we face gradual extinction. That is what this Bill imposes on Northern Ireland, without consultation.

I close with two questions for my noble friend. He is rightly respected as a leading advocate of LGBT rights and I take this opportunity to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, on her recent marriage and to wish her and her wife every happiness. Love is love. It is a wonderful thing, as is the personal and societal security, stability and happiness that flow from it. My point is this: I would never presume to invalidate anyone’s love for another human being, including by denying them the right to get married. But why, then, do my noble friend and the Government use this Bill to invalidate the most fundamental right of all: every human being’s equal right to exist? For that, ultimately, is what this Bill does, and without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland or their MLAs.

My last question is this. Recent reports in the media suggest that the day is fast approaching when a predisposition to same-sex attraction can be established before birth. Yet there will be nothing to prevent abortions on that basis, although another reason would presumably be given. Would my noble friend stand at the Dispatch Box and defend the right for people to make such a choice, or would he stand with me and say that such discrimination would be unacceptable and wrong? If, as I hope, he would join me in opposing such discrimination, how can he possibly defend such discrimination against human beings whose only crime is to be diagnosed with a disability before birth?

It is no less unacceptable and wrong for us to impose such inequality on the people of Northern Ireland without their consent. It is vital that, at the very least, that consent is secured by introducing a requirement that a majority of MLAs support regulations before they are laid before Parliament. I urge noble Lords to support Amendments 16 and 16A.

Thirteen weeks for people of Northern Ireland to stop extreme abortion regime

The people of Northern Ireland have thirteen weeks to stop the introduction of one of the world’s most extreme abortion regimes to the province.

MPs yesterday (18/07) approved a group of amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill from the House of Lords, including an abortion amendment which will introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to 28-weeks, if Stormont does not reconvene by the 21st October.

If this were to happen in Northern Ireland, therehere would also be no legal restriction on where abortions can be performed. In England and Wales, the Abortion Act currently restricts abortion to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State. Without this legal safeguard this would allow for a proliferation of private abortion clinics in Northern Ireland along with the potential for mail-order abortion pills. This could also potentially allow for manual vacuum aspiration abortions to be performed in school nurse clinics or abortion pills being handed out by school nurses to pregnant girls.

Additionally, there would also be no requirement for parents to be notified that their daughter was having an abortion performed on them. So while most schools would not allow a child to be given a Ibuprofen pill by school nurse without a parent giving their consent, there would be no legal restriction on that same school nurse performing an abortion on the girl without her parents giving their consent.

These extreme abortions proposals do not have popular support in Northern Ireland. Polling shows that the majority of people from Northern Ireland do not want abortion imposed on them by Westminster. Over the last few days, 19,000 people from Northern Ireland have signed a letter that was delivered to Theresa May, yesterday, asking her to intervene and stop her Government forcing an extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland.

It is now up to this strong and highly motivated majority in Northern Ireland to build a movement to secure the return of Stormont.

The group of amendments – including an amendment which will force abortion on Northern Ireland – were passed by 328 to 65. Fewer MPs voted against these amendments than the original abortion amendment introduced by Stella Creasy MP. This is likely because the group of amendments included a number of other issues which were voted on collectively.

The amendment voted through had been brought forward by Baroness Barker in the House of Lords. It is thought that this amendment, added to correct deficiencies in the Creasy amendment, was drafted with the assistance of the Government.

The Northern Ireland Assembly still has the possibility of rejecting this abortion amendment if it is able to reconvene before the 21st October and chooses to do so. If Stormont does not reconvene, this amendment will bring very substantial change to the law on abortion in the region by removing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against The Person Act from the law, which would introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to 28 weeks to Northern Ireland.

This would leave Northern Ireland with one of the most extreme abortion laws in Europe and they would be far out of line with legislation in the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK.

If the change were to go ahead, this would potentially lead to significant numbers coming across the border for abortions from the Republic of Ireland where, post-referendum, abortion is restricted in most cases to 12 weeks gestation. It is also possible that there would be traffic from a number of other countries in Europe as the median gestational time limit for most abortion among EU countries is 12 weeks

Recent polling from ComRes shows that 66% of women and 70% of 18-34 year olds in Northern Ireland rejected abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has considered the issue of abortion much more recently than any other parliament in the United Kingdom. In 2016, a clear majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly, including both Unionists and Nationalists, upheld the law on abortion as it currently stands.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Clare McCarthy said:

“The people of Northern Ireland have thirteen weeks to stop the introduction of one of the world’s most extreme abortion regimes to the province.”

“Many thousands of people in Northern Ireland are deeply angered and distressed by this action by the Westminster Parliament. The manner in which MPs from Westminster have attempted to impose abortion on a people that do not want it, and who they do not represent, is grossly disrespectful and unconstitutional.”

“This horrific abortion law can be stopped. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that Stormont reconvenes in order to protect the thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost if this extreme abortion law came into effect.”

“Over just a couple of days, 19,000 people from Northern Ireland signed a letter that was delivered to Theresa May yesterday, asking her to intervene and not to allow abortion to be forced on Northern Ireland. It is the voices of those 19,000 Northern Irish people who need to be listened to now, by their own politicians, and in their own Government in Northern Ireland.”

“It’s those 19,000 people, organisations and wider Northern Irish society that now need to come together as soon as possible to build a movement to ensure that Stormont is reconvened.”

Westminster votes to force abortion on NI. 13 weeks left for people of Northern Ireland to stop introduction of extreme abortion regime

MPs have voted 328 – 65 to force more extreme abortion laws on Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.

The vote took place yesterday (18/07) in the final stages of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill. MPs cast a single vote for a group of amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill which included a radical abortion amendment that was added in the House of Lords. The vote against was lower than the vote on the Creasy amendment last week, this is likely because the group of amendments included a number of other issues.

This focus now moves to Northern Ireland where, should the Executive in Stormont reform before October 21st, it is possible that all amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill could be rejected.

Nigel Dodds said: “[This amendment] makes abortion legal for absolutely any reason, including gender and disability, until a legal presumption of 28 weeks.”

This assessment is based on the fact that the amendment seeks to remove sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861), which protects unborn life. In which case, the only legal protection for unborn children left would be the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 which only applies from 28-weeks gestation. This, would make abortion readily available for any reason – including discriminatory abortions based on gender and disability – up until 28 weeks.

This would make the abortion law in Northern Ireland more extreme than in the rest of the UK where abortion is available until 24 weeks and, as an important safeguard, must be signed off by two doctors. No such requirement would exist if this abortion amendment passes in Northern Ireland.

The amendments have been heavily criticised across both Houses of Parliament for being out of scope of the Bill, which was supposed to be concerned with extending the period for the formation of an Executive in Northern Ireland.

During the debate Ian Paisley MP said the Bill has been “hijacked” by these amendments, adding that it was “an outrage to common decency in Northern Ireland.”

A number of other MPs and Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, criticised the fact that, due to the fast-tracking of this Bill – it proceeded through both Houses of Parliament in only two weeks – there was a lack of public and parliamentary scrutiny, as well as little substantive discussion on abortion itself.

Bruce pointed out that 100,000 people are alive today because Northern Ireland did not adopt the 1967 Abortion Act – a figure backed up by the Advertising Standards Association – and that in just four days, over 19,000 people residents of Northern Ireland signed a letter objecting to the imposition of abortion on the region in this manner.

“If we read that across to the British mainland, that is the equivalent of 500,000 signing a petition in a matter of four days,”  Paisley added

Paisley, along with a number of other MPs, criticised the manner in which the abortion amendment was forced onto this Bill saying it was undemocratic, an attack on devolution and lacking proper scrutiny.

Fiona Bruce MP added:

“The way in which the issue of abortion and, indeed, the Bill has been handled has been, I believe, unconstitutional, undemocratic, legally incoherent and utterly disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland, yet the Government are pressing on today with just a derisory one hour’s debate. That is despite the fact that abortion is a devolved policy area and a hugely controversial issue, and despite the shamefully limited scrutiny time we have already had.”

Deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds, echoed concerns regarding devolution saying:

“Either we have direct rule and legislate on all those areas, or we respect devolution—we cannot have it both ways…”

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said:

“The people of Northern Ireland have thirteen weeks to stop the introduction of one of the worlds most extreme abortion regimes to the province.

“Many thousands of people in Northern Ireland are deeply angered and distressed by this action by the Westminster Parliament. The manner in which MPs from Westminster have attempted to impose abortion on a people that do not want it, and who they do not represent, is grossly disrespectful and unconstitutional. 

“This horrific abortion law can be stopped. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that Stormont reconvenes in order to protect the thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost if this extreme abortion law came into effect.

House of Lords votes to force abortion on Northern Ireland

The House of Lords has voted to undermine the sovereignty of Northern Ireland and force abortion on the region later this year.

In a vote last night (17/07), members of the House of Lords voted 182 – 37 in favour of Baroness Barker’s amendment to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offence Against the Person Act (1861) (OAPA) for Northern Ireland, which would likely make abortion available up until 28 weeks gestation.

This comes just less than two weeks after an abortion amendment added to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill was passed in the House of Commons. Since then, the Bill has been fast-tracked through both Houses of Parliament and set to come a final time before the House of Commons today.

There was some debate about the effects of repealing these sections of OAPA, and it remains unclear whether abortion will be available until 24 or 28 weeks in Northern Ireland.

Baroness O’Loan pointed out that due to the Infant Life Preservation Act (1929), which is not affected by this amendment, abortion would be made available up to 28 weeks.

There is a possibility that the Northern Ireland Assembly will reject these changes imposed on it by Westminster, but the Assembly has not sat since 2017.

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said:

“The people of Northern Ireland have thirteen weeks to stop the introduction of one of the worlds most extreme abortion regimes to the province.

“Many thousands of people in Northern Ireland are deeply angered and distressed by this action by the Westminster Parliament. The manner in which MPs from Westminster have attempted to impose abortion on a people that do not want it, and who they do not represent, is grossly disrespectful and unconstitutional. 

“This horrific abortion law can be stopped. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that Stormont reconvenes in order to protect the thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost if this extreme abortion law came into effect. 

Over just a couple of days, 19,000 people from Northern Ireland signed a letter that was delivered to Theresa May yesterday, asking her to intervene and not to allow abortion to be forced on Northern Ireland. It is the voices of those 19,000 Northern Irish people who need to be listened to now, by their own politicians, and in their own Government in Northern Ireland.  

It’s those 19,000 people, organisations and wider Northern Irish society that now need to come together as soon as possible to build a movement to ensure that Stormont is reconvened.”