The UK Government has ordered the NI Executive to have Westminster-imposed abortion regulations fully operational across Northern Ireland by no later than 31 March 2022.
Acting on unprecedented powers conferred on him by the Parliament in April, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis directed the NI Department of Health and the Regional Health and Social Care Board to make abortions more readily available.
Abortion is a devolved matter but a radical regime was forced on the Province by Westminster in March last year, angering NI politicians. Abortions are already being provided by individual Health and Social Care Trusts, but have not been commissioned nationwide.
In a written statement to Parliament, the Secretary of State said he had a “statutory duty” to implement guidelines promoting abortion set out in a 2018 report by UN committee, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
CEDAW’s recommendations were not binding until they were given legal force by Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019passed under Theresa May’s Government.
But, Lewis stated, his purpose was to deliver “fully commissioned CEDAW compliant services”.
In response, Carla Lockhart MP said: “The Government’s insistence on interfering on devolved issues undermines the institutions”.
“What we have in this statement from the Secretary of State is a further example of a government acting with no respect to the local electorate and locally elected politicians.”
Westminster’s enforced legislation means the Province now has the most liberal abortion law in the UK, with abortion allowed without having to give a reason up to 12 weeks – enabling sex-selective abortion.
It also effectively permits abortions to take place up to 24 weeks for any reason, and up to birth if the baby is deemed to have a disability.
Since the legislation was imposed in March 2020, the number of abortions has dramatically risen – from 22 in the twelve months prior to the law being changed, to 1,345 in the year following.
Earlier this month, the High Court granted the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) permission to launch a judicial review against the Westminster Government’s override powers.