Bid to allow abortion in Northern Ireland

A group of pro-abortion MPs has tabled an amendment to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland, but it may not be selected for a vote.

The Commons Speaker decides which amendments are debated and, according to press reports, he may judge that MPs had sufficient time to debate abortion in May.

Backbench MPs on both sides of the abortion issue have tabled a series of amendments in recent weeks to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

The Bill is due to reach concluding debates and votes in the Commons in October.

This latest amendment would extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland – where abortion is currently illegal unless the mother’s life is in danger.

Moves to change the law in the Province are deeply unpopular with Northern Ireland MPs. However, the pro-abortion lobby argue that all women should have the ‘right’ to terminate a pregnancy.

Around 1,300 women travel from Northern Ireland to Great Britain to have abortions – a tiny proportion of the 200,000 terminations which take place on the mainland each year.

When the embryos Bill was debated in a Committee of the Whole House in May, the law on abortion remained unchanged.

Final votes on the embryos Bill – when the latest batch of amendments could be considered – have been postponed until the autumn.

There has been speculation that the delay was due to pressure from pro-abortion MPs to allow time for liberalising amendments to be tabled.

Pro-life Labour MP, Jim Dobbin, commented on the delay: “It looks like pressure has been put on the Government’s programme by some of the pro-choice people who are putting down some vicious amendments.

“The advice the Speaker would have got would have been not to select them because they have had adequate discussion during committee stage.

“Certainly there is a group of MPs on the Labour side, led by Harriet Harman, who want the issue of abortion debated and putting it back would mean that two or three days would be available at a later date.”

None of the MPs responsible for the amendment to extend the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland are from the Province. They are:

Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke NewingtonJacqui Lait, Conservative MP for BeckenhamEvan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and AbingdonKaty Clark, Labour MP for Ayrshire North & ArranJohn Bercow, Conservative MP for BuckinghamJohn McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington.

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