Conservative Gov abandons neutrality to impose abortion on Northern Ireland

The Conservative Government appears to have abandoned its neutral policy in regard to abortion as it promotes legislation which would force abortion on Northern Ireland.

For various legislative reasons, an abortion amendment added to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill will not function as intended and would not implement abortion in Northern Ireland. 

However, the Government has since made clear that it is working to redraft the abortion clause so that the Bill will force abortion onto Northern Ireland.

On behalf of the Government, Lord Ian Duncan said: “I have just met [the MPs who proposed the amendments] to discuss how best to take this forward and to ensure that [the amendments] can be delivered.”

Commentators have reported that the outgoing Prime Minister, Theresa May, is concerned to leave a strong legacy. Currently, it looks like she will head the first Conservative Government, not only to actively change abortion legislation but to do so against the expressed will of 100% of MPs representing Northern Ireland, all of whom voted against the abortion amendment.

Whilst the original amendment to force abortion on Northern Ireland came from Stella Creasy MP and a number of other MPs, the Conservative Government have since committed to redrafting the amendment. Should it succeed, they will be directly responsible for the imposition on abortion on Northern Ireland.

Due to the pro-life laws in Northern Ireland 100,000 people are alive today who would otherwise not be. The Government are now actively attempting to remove those legal protections that protected the lives of these people.

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said:

Polling shows that two-thirds of Tory councillors oppose Westminster forcing abortion on Northern Ireland, which likely reflects the sentiment of grassroots Conservative voters.”

“It is truly disappointing that this Conservative Government look set to be the first, not only to change abortion legislation, but to break the devolution settlement and impose it on a region that does not want it.”

“As Lord Shinkwin said last night, Theresa May will leave a “burning injustice” as her legacy if she continues to support forcing abortion on Northern Ireland.”

Two-thirds Tory Councillors oppose Gov move to force abortion on Norther Ireland

New polling has revealed that two-thirds of Conservative councillors (67%) support abortion remaining a devolved matter for Northern Ireland, and believe that it should be up to politicians in Northern Ireland to decide whether to change the law on this issue. 

The ComRes poll is thought to be broadly representative of voting sentiment among grassroots Conservatives and indicates that there is very little support from Conservative party members to impose abortion on Northern Ireland from Westminster. 

The poll also showed the highest support for respecting devolution on this issue from the devolved regions (Wales and Scotland), with 86% supporting abortion being a devolved matter for politicians in Northern Ireland to decide.

The poll comes as Theresa May’s Government faces a major backlash from Northern Ireland against the Government’s plan to redraft the abortion clause in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to introduce an extreme change to abortion law, likely ushering into Northern Ireland the most extreme abortion law in Europe. 

This move appears to signal an end to the Conservative Party’s long standing neutral policy in regard to abortion. It also appears to be a departure from the Government’s position on respecting devolution.

The polling also reflects sentiment among the public in Northern Ireland with previous polling showing that a strong majority of women (66%) reject interference from Westminster on this sensitive issue, agreeing that this was a decision for Northern Ireland. The strongest support among age groups surveyed came from the youngest age group, 18-34 year olds, with 70% agreeing that they did not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster.

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life said:

“The new polling clearly shows that the Government scrapping their long-held position of neutrality on abortion and drafting secondary legislation to impose abortion on Northern Ireland will be very unpopular among the Conservative Party membership. This shows that there is very strong support for respecting devolution and that any changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion laws should be made in Northern Ireland, not imposed by Westminster. 

“Moreover, this polling echoes previous polling of Northern Irish people, with two-thirds of women rejecting interference from Westminster, believing that this is a decision for Northern Ireland.

“It is a reminder to the Government in Westminster that abortion remains a devolved issue in Northern Ireland. They have no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland to make any changes to Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion and all laws and policy regarding that issue should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland through their elected representatives.”

(Photo credit AdobeStock: Marco Govel)