UK: MPs Object to Imposition of Abortion on Northern Ireland
Thursday, September 12, 2019

The attempt by the UK to impose abortion on demand on Northern Ireland continues while the Irish people and MPs protest. The nearly three year failure of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein to come together and reconstitute the government in Stormont by October 21 is a crisis that pro-abortion MPs in the UK are taking advantage of to deny Northern Ireland self-determination on abortion law and policy despite the fact that in 2016 the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against changing the law banning abortion except for limited exceptions and all MPs from Northern Ireland voted against the abortion amendment..

The two parties sharing the government have differing views with the DUP opposing the legislation which would effectively legalize abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy under select situations and allow abortion on demand for the first 28 weeks (7 months) of pregnancy while Sinn Fein supports the legislation to overturn Northern Ireland’s strong pro-life policy.

During debate this week in the House of Commons it was revealed that MP Stella Creasy is now attempting to block any chance of the a vote by the Irish people as she sought assurances that the people of Northern Ireland would not be consulted on the implementation of the new extreme abortion policy which she proposed.

Ms Creasy challenged UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith asking him: “We are 35 days away from the possibility that these clauses will become law, so will he give us some more detail? In particular, he talks about consultation. Can he confirm whether there is going to be public involvement in that consultation? It is really important for this House to be clear that, just as we would not ask non-medical professionals to consult on how to conduct a vasectomy, we should not do so when it comes to an abortion.”

Not only does the UK parliamentarian want to deny a vote to the Irish people but she is seeking faster implementation of abortion as she asked the government to reveal what regulatory changes it is preparing beginning October 22 asking: “… what is the Secretary of State’s message to women in Northern Ireland who will need an abortion on 22 October, whether because they have a fatal foetal abnormality, are a victim of rape or incest, or simply do not want to be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy?”

MPs from Northern Ireland raised concern that there is not enough effort to reconstitute the Executive expressing frustration that Sinn Fein is not acting in good faith because it does not want a vote on abortion. In response to Julian Smith’s response that “If the parties get their act together, there can be a Northern Ireland solution to this issue”, Sammy Wilson (DUP) said, “He cannot run away and hide behind the statement, ‘It is up to the parties in Northern Ireland’, as one party that is essential to the setting up of the Administration does not want the responsibility of giving the opportunity to the Assembly to overturn the legislation.”

In additional comments Wilson continued: “We are all very keen to see Stormont back up and running, but while Westminster continues to deliver on the socially progressive policies that Sinn Féin wishes to see, why on earth would Sinn Féin wish to see Stormont restored? It gets two goes for its money because it gets the policies it wants and is able to blame Westminster for effectively declaring direct rule by the back door. That is not a way to deal with fellow citizens.”

Jim Shannon (DUP) expressed his support for the current law in Northern Ireland which has saved lives stating, “I am still aghast at what section 9 of the Executive Formation Act proposes. In Northern Ireland we have developed the different approach to abortion that robust statistical research suggests means that about 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not be had we embraced the Abortion Act 1967. One hundred thousand lives is a lot of people. In this context, it is no great surprise that our approach has clearly helped.”

Importantly, Shannon told the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Northern Ireland Assembly opposed changing the abortion law in any way in a vote in 2016. He also told the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland: “…on 9 July every Northern Irish Member who takes their seat in Westminster voted against an attempt to overturn our law. However, what is particularly shocking, and what is brought out clearly in the report before us today, is something I do not think, with great respect, dawned on most Members of this House when we asked to consider what was then the entirely new clause 9 on 18 July —that it was not present in the provision we debated on 9 July. What is now section 9 does not just overturn our legal tradition; quite astonishingly, it does not require anything to be put in place for five whole months.”

“If the Northern Ireland Assembly is not restored by 21 October, then on 22 October all our law governing will disappear until the point at which a child is deemed incapable of being born alive. I want to put it on record that 60% of those surveyed in a national opinion poll in Northern Ireland said that they did not want any change. I am asking the House today not to make this change against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. We had a rally at Stormont where almost 30,000 people walked to retain the rights of the unborn baby in the womb. That has to be preserved.”

The demand that the Northern Ireland Assembly be restored so it can vote on any changes to the abortion law is in line with the agreement in the Programme of Action (PoA) of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which states in 8.25: “Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process.” 

As the world prepares for the 25th anniversary of ICPD it is shocking to see the UK act in such a heavy-handed way to deny the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives in the Assembly a voice on a core moral issue that will impact the lives of children, women and families for generations to come.

MP Stella Creasy, who claimed her abortion amendment to impose abortion on Northern Ireland was necessary in order for the UK to be “CEDAW-compliant”, appears unfazed that Northern Ireland will not be compliant with the agreement from ICPD that abortion policies need to be determined “according to the national legislative process”.