Artillery Row

MPs approve Northern Ireland Abortion Regulations

The government seems determined to impose abortion in Northern Ireland against its will

Abortion in Northern Ireland will be legal on demand to 24 weeks in Northern Ireland after MPs approved the legislation in a free vote yesterday.

253 MPs voted for the regulations, while 136 voted against.

Abortions up to 12 weeks will only need to be signed off by one doctor, nurse or midwife and abortion on the basis of sex-selection will be legal.

Pro-life campaigners point out that under the new measures there will be no offence for coerced abortion, so pregnant women who are attacked or poisoned and subsequently miscarry will receive no justice for their baby’s death.

Pro-life Charity CARE’s Chief Executive, Nola Leach said: “In short, MPs from England, Wales and Scotland have voted for abortion laws in NI that are more extreme than Great Britain.

“They have ignored the calls from disability campaigners like Heidi Crowter that the regulations make them feel like second class citizens.

“Sadly, these regulations will harm, not help, women and babies.

“We will continue to advocate for life-affirming laws that respect the right to life and provide proper support for vulnerable women experiencing a crisis pregnancy.”

The two SDLP MPs and the Alliance MP Stephen Farry voted in favour but all eight DUP MPs voted against.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart said:

“Today in Northern Ireland 100,000 people are alive because we had laws that protected life. Today MPs have erased those laws with new regulations that open the door for wide ranging access to abortion.

Sex selective abortion can now be performed here and abortion for a non-fatal disability can happen to full term. That is out of line with public opinion in Northern Ireland, but sadly the Northern Ireland Office chose to pursue this agenda to kowtow to radical pro-abortion lobbyists who show little regard for the unborn child.”

During a free vote, Cabinet members are allowed to express their personal views. DFID Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan voted in favour of the motion but Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg voted against.

However with a large Commons majority, the question arises: why did Boris Johnson allow the vote to go ahead, rather than upholding the principle of devolution in Northern Ireland? The government is normally adamant about hiding behind the skirts of devolution and washing its hand of responsibility for legislation in Ulster: why did this have to be done at Westminster?

Last year when MPs at Westminster began to legislate on abortion in Northern Ireland, abortion advocates claimed it was necessary to legislate on behalf of the province because the Northern Ireland Assembly was not sitting.

However Stormont was restored in January 2020 and on 2 June the Assembly voted for a motion rejecting the imposition of abortion legislation, including abortion up to birth for all non-fatal disabilities by 46-40. Inevitably this vote received no attention nationally (where the abortion decision for NI is now being taken, in the national parliament). Though parts of the national press were very taken with equally non-substantive motions, but these were of course anti-Brexit.

Yesterday 135 Labour MPs, 104 Conservative MPs, 7 Lib Dems MPs, 2 Plaid Cymru MPs, 2 SNP MPs, all 2 Social Democratic & Labour Party MPs, and 1 Alliance MP voted in favour.

Just three Labour MPs voted against the move: Mike Kane, Rachael Maskell, and Marie Rimmer and one Scottish Nationalist voted against the law imposed on a devolved assembly: Dr Lisa Cameron.

Additionally 124 Conservative MPs voted against and a further 261 did not vote in the deferred division.

Not much constancy can be found in this government’s actions at the moment, but a determination to impose on Northern Ireland abortion rules its devolved assembly wouldn’t accept, mysteriously seems to be one of the few things it is set upon doing.

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