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.”