UK Government to impose extreme abortion regime on NI in middle of Coronavirus crisis

Despite the fact that the UK is in the middle of dealing with the Coronavirus crisis, and despite Stormont returning on 11 January 2020, the UK Government have today announced that they will go-ahead with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland next week (31 March 2020).

Of all submissions received, 79% of those expressed a view registering their general opposition to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted.

Right To Life UK has called on MLAs to introduce legislation as soon as possible to repeal the extreme abortion regime and confirm the Northern Ireland Department of Health will prioritise dealing with the Coronavirus crisis and not divert any time and resources, which are critical to saving lives during this crisis, to instead introducing this extreme abortion regime across Northern Ireland.

The abortion regime announced by the Conservative Government today will introduce isability selective abortion for any disability including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot, right through to birth. Abortion will be available right through to birth “if the child were born, it would suffer from such physical or mental impairment as to be seriously disabled.” 

In England and Wales, wording that has appeared similarly restrictive  (‘that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’) has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

Abortion will be available through to 24-weeks ‘ in cases where the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl, greater than the risk of terminating the pregnancy’. In England and Wales, similar wording has in practice allowed for de-facto abortion on demand.

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Sex-selective abortion will be available on-demand through to 12-weeks. Abortion on-demand, without certification, through to 12-weeks (2.1.2) will allow for sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand. This goes further than the law In England and Wales and will be the first time abortion on demand (without conditionality) will be legally available in the UK. Additionally, there will be no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through to 24-weeks.

Abortions will be available in GP surgeries throughout Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) currently restricts abortion to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State. This means that abortions are available in a limited number of approved locations and abortion are not routinely provided in GPs surgeries.

Performing abortions in GP surgeries throughout Northern Ireland is a substantially different approach to that of England and Wales. In Northern Ireland under the new regime, all GPs surgeries will be approved locations to do abortions. This will dramatically increase the locations, compared to England and Wales, where this extremely divisive procedure can take place.

There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved in an abortion – midwives and nurses will be able to provide abortions. This goes further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner (doctor), and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.

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A senior Economist warned in July 2019 that introducing abortion on demand to Northern Ireland would cost over £5m a year, putting “strain” on an “already over-stretched health service”. The set-up of the service is likely to cost much more in terms of start-up costs and will take vital health service time and resources from fighting the Coronavirus.

Right To Life UK have today launched the “Save Lives: Repeal” campaign calling on MLAs to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this change to the law which has been imposed on Northern Ireland.

A new poll organised by the University of Liverpool and Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council has shown that 58% of Sinn Féin voters and 54% of DUP voters want their country’s new abortion framework to only allow abortions when the mother’s life is at risk. Only 5% of all voters support introducing abortion through to 24 weeks, which is in line with what the Government will be introducing to Northern Ireland.

Right To Life UK are calling on the public to visit www.rightolife.org.uk/repeal where they can email their local MLAs calling on them to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this change to the law which has been imposed on Northern Ireland. 

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Despite the fact that Stormont has returned and the UK is in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis, the UK Government are proceeding with imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland on 31st March 2020.

To add insult to injury, they have taken what Parliament asked them to impose on Northern Ireland and made it far worse, meaning that Northern Ireland will have one of the most extreme abortion regimes in the world, despite 79% of respondents to the consultation being opposed to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted.

This extreme abortion regime will legalise sex-selective abortion and introduce abortion for babies with disabilities including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome to birth. It will introduce defacto abortion-on-demand to Northern Ireland through to 24-weeks. 

It will also open up abortion provision to midwives and nurses. This goes much further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions can only be performed by a doctor and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.  

Abortions will also be available at GPs surgeries throughout Northern Ireland, this again goes further than the law In England and Wales, where abortions are restricted to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State.

Introducing abortion on demand to Northern Ireland would cost over £5m a year, putting more pressure on an already stretched health service. Rolling out the service is likely to cost much more in terms of start-up costs and will take vital health service time and resources from fighting the Coronavirus.

We are calling on MLAs to urgently confirm the Department of Health will prioritise dealing with the Coronavirus crisis and not divert any time and resources, which are critical to saving lives during this crisis, to instead introducing this extreme abortion regime across Northern Ireland.

We are also calling on MLAs to bring forward legislation as soon as possible to Stormont to repeal this extreme change to the law”


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