Amendment to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland withdrawn
Northern Ireland Amendment to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland withdrawn
Commons clerks force Labour MPs to withdraw attempt to change law dating back to 1861
Labour MPs have been forced to withdraw an amendment that aimed to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland after clerks at the House of Commons said it was outside the scope of a bill being debated in parliament on Wednesday.
Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn instead tabled a watered- down amendment that if passed would require the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, âto issue guidanceâ to explain how officials can continue to enforce a law that dates back to 1861.
The amendment, which has the support of 107 mostly Labour MPs, says guidance for officials would be required because the Victorian law is incompatible with human rights legislation. Half a dozen Tories are also in support.
If passed, it would mean Westminster politicians had intervened in Northern Irelandâs strict abortion laws over the heads of Stormont and, in particular, the Democratic Unionist party, which has long opposed any loosening of the law.
Abortion is normally subject to a free vote, but the law has been devolved in Northern Ireland for a century and the matter is theoretically reserved for Stormont, although the Northern Ireland assembly has not sat since the beginning of 2017.Labour MPs in fresh bid to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland Read more
Creasy complained that Theresa May has been reluctant to intervene on the issue in Northern Ireland because of her reliance on the DUP to give her government a Commons majority.
âThe absence of an assembly cannot be used as an excuse to ignore the human rights of the people of Northern Ireland â¦ The question is whether the prime ministerâs more concerned about the DUP than the damage human rights abuses do,â she said.
A supreme court ruling in June had indicated that Northern Irelandâs abortion laws were incompatible with human rights legislation, but judges declined to issue a final ruling because the case that had been brought before them did not involve an individual victim.
While England, Scotland and Wales have their own laws that legalise terminations, in the region, the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act still applies, which criminalises any woman seeking an abortion or anybody helping them obtain one.
Creasy and McGi nnâs amendment has the support of Labourâs deputy leader, Tom Watson, half a dozen Conservatives including Heidi Allen and Tom Tugendhat, plus Norman Lamb for the Liberal Democrats and the Green party MP, Caroline Lucas.Labour MPs to press May for Commons vote on Northern Ireland abortion ban Read more
On Tuesday, MPs voted to repeal the Victorian-era law via a separate backbench bill. The free vote on a 10-minute rule bill, put forward by Labourâs Diana Johnson, passed by 208 votes to 123, with one cabinet minister, Penny Mordaunt, voting in favour.
However, the Johnson bill will not become law because the government has signalled that it will not give it parliamentary time â" while Wednesdayâs amendment to the Northern Ireland bill could become law because it is attached to government legislation.
On Tuesday, Johnsonâs bill was opposed by Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP, who said: âWhatever membersâ differing views on abortion, if we respect devolution, we should vote against this motion today.â
Bruce also argued it was untimely, given Brexit negotiations meant it was âsuch a sensitive time in relations between the Westminster government and the Northern Ireland administrationâ.Topics
- Northern Ireland
- Northern Irish politics
- Stella Creasy
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