DUP MP Carla Lockhart has described the decision by the Government to lay regulations concerning abortion law for Northern Ireland before Parliament today as contemptable, saying it ignores the devolution settlement and the overwhelming viewpoint of the Northern Ireland people.
Carla Lockhart said:
“With a restored Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly now up and running, it is for those locally elected politicians and institutions to set the law for Northern Ireland with regard to abortion.
Sadly we have a government in Westminster that continues to ignore this. Northern Ireland will now be moving forward with regulations that do not reflect the overwhelming public opinion in relation to abortion law.
The UK Government’s analysis of the consultation published today openly acknowledges that 79% of responses opposed any change to abortion law in Northern Ireland.
Quite amazingly they propose a more liberal abortion regime for Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.
- Abortion on request for any reason including disability and the sex ofthe baby up until 12 weeks with the signature of just one doctor or one nurse, or one midwife. In Great Britain sex-selection abortion is not permissible and two doctors are required.
- Abortion functionally on request from 13 to 24 weeks on a basis that is almost the same (but slightly more liberal than) as in Great Britain. This is the provision under which 98% of the more than 9 million GB abortions have taken place, and for which there is no record of any woman being denied an abortion in the last ten years.
- Abortion up to term in cases of severe foetal abnormality, which is not defined, but in a GB context would include disabilities such as downs syndrome and cleft palette.
In Northern Ireland one of our distinctives has been our life affirming laws. 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not be had we chosen to embrace the 1967 Abortion Act.
In this context it is not surprising that 100% of Northern Ireland MPs who voted on 9 July last year, voted against the proposal for Westminster to change Northern Ireland’s abortion law. Their votes on this devolved matter, however, were overwhelmed by the votes of MPs from other parts of the UK who effectively disenfranchised the people of Northern Ireland by nullifying the concerns of their MPs.
The constitutional offence to the people of Northern Ireland in this action is compounded by the fact that the regulations published today propose a more liberal approach to abortion provision than anywhere else in the Great Britain. Indeed, legal opinion state that these regulations are far more permissive than was required by Parliament.
Given that abortion law is devolved, and the Assembly is functioning, it is astounding that a Conservative government should choose to make these changes now, which threaten our distinctive life affirming tradition at the very time we face another life and death challenge in the form of the Covid-19.
These regulations go way beyond what a locally elected Assembly and Executive would agree to. In doing so they ride roughshod over the devolution settlement, locally elected politicians and the people of Northern Ireland.
We will be fighting these regulations all the way in Westminster. Every day we are focusing on the protection of life from coronavirus. Yet today, we see the Government move ahead with measures that will endthe life of the most vulnerable in society – the unborn child.
We ask the Government to place the same value on the unborn child, as they do everyone else in the United Kingdom today.”