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Abortion report undermines Northern Ireland devolution

June 2019

Nola Leach SOURCE CARE
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A report on abortion law in Northern Ireland makes recommendations that will undermine devolution and bypass the Northern Ireland Assembly, public policy charity CARE has warned.

At the end of April, the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) Report on abortion law in Northern Ireland recommended that devolution be by-passed, and abortion legalised in Northern Ireland in cases of so called ‘fatal foetal abnormality’.

However, CARE warned that abortion is a devolved matter and has been the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly since 1921.

Moreover, none of the MPs on the committee represent Northern Ireland constituencies, and the Committee was not even unanimous in recommending the final report.

In fact, two members backed an alternative report by Eddie Hughes MP, which made some compromise proposals that would have respected the devolution settlement while engaging with some of the wider concerns about abortion provision in NI.

According to CARE, polling by ComRes in October last year found that 64 percent of people and 66 percent of women in Northern Ireland do not think abortion law should be decided by MPs.

Nola Leach, chief executive of CARE, commented, ‘The issue of abortion law in Northern Ireland should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland through their elected representatives and not by MPs sitting on a Westminster Committee.

‘No member of the WEC Committee represents a constituency from Northern Ireland and so making suggestions of law change on a devolved matter is unacceptable. The repercussions of damaging the devolution settlement in the way recommended in the report would be felt across the UK’.

She said there was no doubt the issue of access to abortion where an unborn child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting condition deemed fatal before, during or shortly after birth is hugely sensitive.

But, she added, the proper place for a discussion about this was at the Assembly in Northern Ireland, not in Westminster.

She also said, ‘The prospect of Westminster imposing change is highly alarming, as any legislation put forward could be amended to allow for widespread access to abortion on request for any reason in Northern Ireland. We do not believe the hardest of hard cases should be used to allow for abortion on request.

Quoted by the Christian Institute, Dawn McAvoy, of pro-life group Both Lives Matter, said, ‘The submissions from those who do live in Northern Ireland clearly favoured no change in the law.

‘Yet the Committee are proposing that Westminster impose abortion law change on us, completely bypassing our elected representatives.

According to figures from CARE, the pro-life stance taken in Northern Ireland has led to more than 100,000 people alive today across the province.