A group of community leaders from NI are visiting Westminster today (18/7/18) to tell MPs not to risk crippling devolution by imposing abortion laws on NI. MPs will hear from seven women, including a former Sinn Fein Mayor, a current DUP MLA, an SDLP councillor, and spokesperson for Iona NI Mrs Tracy Harkin.
The message of the group is that there are many women across Northern Ireland who do not want the current abortion law to be changed. This comes within the context of ever greater pressure to undermine NI’s pro-life laws at Westminster. Recently some have called for a free vote in the House of Commons on Labour MP Stella Creasy’s proposed amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill. If successful, this would see new abortion laws imposed on Northern Ireland, which would be even less restrictive than the current law in GB, despite the fact that abortion is a devolved responsibility for the Northern Ireland Assembly and has been so since 2009.
Leading Conservatives, including the party’s deputy chair James Cleverly and the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson have warned against going over the heads of the Northern Ireland assembly, as has SNP MP Deirdre Brock. Polling by Both Lives Matter also showed a huge majority – 72 per cent – of Conservative MPs are against devolution being undermined by imposing abortion laws on Northern Ireland.
Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter said: “It’s vital that MPs hear from women who live and work in Northern Ireland and who represent other women across the Province.There are a lot of myths about abortion law in Northern Ireland, it’s important for the GB public to know that women in NI do have access to safe and legal abortion, in carefully limited circumstances. There’s been a lot of noise about the “need” for new abortion law in Northern Ireland. This is being driven by pro-abortion campaigners who are trying to open up unlimited access to abortion. We represent some of the many Northern Irish women who reject this. We would urge British MPs to respect the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives. Our current law provides proper protection for both the mother and the unborn baby and we’ve found that many women have no desire for that law to be changed.”
DUP NI Assembly Member for Upper Bann, Carla Lockhart, said:
“I have constituents who are deeply concerned at the prospect of abortion on demand being foisted on Northern Ireland. We will be urging members of both Houses to respect the sincere and deeply held views of many in Northern Ireland about abortion as well as the role of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Abortion was fully devolved to the Assembly in 2009. Any move to liberalise our abortion laws through Westminster would be unreasonable and disrespectful to the democratic process in Northern Ireland. Such significant change would undermine the principle of devolution. It would be short-sighted and foolish in the extreme to take advantage of the current political complexities at Stormont to impose such controversial legislation over our heads.”
Former Sinn Fein Mayor, Ann Brolly, said:
“The devolved administration in the north of Ireland was hard won and is currently very fragile. If MPs are serious about respecting it then they will not legislate above the heads of our elected representatives. All across the north there are many women, of different political persuasions who do not want this sort of imposition and I would strongly urge MPs to listen to the views expressed today.”
The most recent consideration of abortion by the NI assembly was in 2016 and showed a clear majority against changing our pro-life laws. Let us hope that Westminster politicians listen to us today.