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.”

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