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.”