Government backs off NI abortion law change

The Government says the Northern Ireland Assembly should be left to decide any change to abortion law if and when it takes on responsibility for the criminal law.

Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward said the Government would not change current arrangements against the wishes of the people in Northern Ireland.

A group of MPs from Great Britain failed to secure a vote on extending the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.

A number of MPs from Northern Ireland warned that imposing such an unpopular move in the Province from Westminster could undermine the process of devolution.

Several weeks ago deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman was challenged over the issue before the final embryology votes. At that time she failed to give any assurance that the Government would not allow the move.

“It is very important the view of the parties is taken into account irrespective of the issue that is being raised,” she said.

“Also it is important that the views of men and also women are taken into account in all parts of the UK when services are being considered.”

Mr Woodward’s comments came in a written answer to a parliamentary question from Ashok Kumar MP. Mr Woodward wrote: “The Government believe that the best forum for taking decisions on this matter is the Northern Ireland Assembly”.

The MPs behind the attempt to extend the provisions of the Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, led by Labour MP Diane Abbott, say they are determined to try again, but this has been dismissed by pro-life campaigners there as “desperate gesture politics”.

Last month, Bernie Smyth from Precious Life said: “Diane Abbott is still arrogantly ignoring the clear pro-life message from our politicians, church leaders, and our people.

She added: “My message to Diane Abbot is butt out of Northern Ireland and stop interfering in our protection of our unborn children.”

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