Northern Ireland anti-abortion activists warn MPs new laws could destroy devolution

Posted by On 12:16 PM

Northern Ireland anti-abortion activists warn MPs new laws could destroy devolution

Anti-abortion activists from Northern Ireland have warned MPs that imposing new laws on terminations could stifle devolution.

Campaigners from group Both Lives Matter travelled to London to voice opposition to easing Northern Ireland’s stringent legal position on abortions.

MPs listened to seven women who stretched across the country’s political spectrum â€" including a former Sinn Fein mayor, a Democratic Unionist assembly member and an SDLP councillor â€" at an event in Westminster on Wednesday.

The British government has been pressured to reform abortion legislation in Northern Ireland with the continuing absence of devolved government.

Calls for change were boosted after the supreme court concluded its abortion laws were incompatible with human rights legislation.​

But Downing Street has insisted the issue should be handled by a restored devolved assembly.

In Northern Ireland, it is a criminal offence for a pregnant woman to have an abortion and for doctors to help her to do so unless there is a risk to her life or there is a risk of permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

Pro-choice campaigners in Northern Ireland have strived to monopolise on the historic results of the May referendum south of the border in the Republic of Ireland which saw people vote overwhelmingly to overturn the abortion ban, by 66.4 per cent to 33.6 per cent.

< p>Dawn McAvoy, co-founded of Both Lives matter, said: “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.”

Carla Lockhart, DUP Stormont assembly member for Upper Bann, 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 c urrent political complexities at Stormont to impose such controversial legislation over our heads.”

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Ann Brolly, a former Sinn Fein mayor of Limavady who left the party over its support for the liberalisation of abortion law, 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."

In February 2016, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against legalising abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and rape or incest.

Pro-choice campaigners have called for change after a majority of Supreme Court judges last month said the ban on terminations in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality needed “radical reconsideration”.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen shares personal story of abortion during Commons debate

But anti-abortion activists have maintained that the issue should just be decided by Stormont politicians.

Although Supreme Court judges said Northern Ireland‘s abortion law violates human rights, they rejected a challenge brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) on technical grounds last month.

However human rights groups and politicians have warned the UK government could not ignore the ruling â€" saying it must bring forward legislation as a matter of urgency.

Source: Google News Ireland | < a href="" target="blank">Netizen 24 Ireland

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