The Government will impose an extreme new abortion regime in Northern Ireland next Tuesday, despite massive resistance from the public in its consultation.
The new law goes far beyond those in England, Scotland and Wales, with abortions allowed for any reason up to 12 weeks, including sex-selective abortion.
As with the rest of the UK, abortion would be available for most reasons up to 24 weeks and up to birth on the grounds of disability. This could include Down’s syndrome, and even cleft palate.
During the Government’s consultation period, 79 per cent of the more than 21,000 respondents expressed opposition to legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.
The regulations remove the requirement for a woman to speak to two doctors, with midwives and nurses now permitted to approve and provide abortions. The new law also allows medical abortions to be conducted in GP surgeries.
There will be no need for any period of reflection to take place, and girls aged 15 years and younger will be able to have an abortion without parental consent.
The Government has chosen not to introduce exclusion zones around abortion clinics, and there will be some conscientious objection protections for pro-life health professionals who don’t want to perform abortions.
Some abortion activists have criticised the Government for not going further. Amnesty International is calling for abortion to be completely decriminalised at any stage in a pregnancy.
The new regulations will be introduced on 31 March, but many in Northern Ireland believe such a divisive issue should not have been imposed on the Province from Westminster.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I have to say I fundamentally reject that Westminster have brought these forward today, it should have been this place that dealt with those issues.
“We have a devolved administration, it should have been the devolved administration that dealt with those issues.”
The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer Callum Webster said: “In the middle of the COVID-19 crisis when so much effort is rightly going in to saving lives, it is appalling that Westminster is making it so easy to kill the unborn in Northern Ireland.
“The people had their say in the Government consultation, and it is abundantly clear that they do not want these extreme laws brought in.
“Northern Ireland has a proud history of valuing the sanctity of life and more than 100,000 people are alive today who would not have been had the Province adopted the 1967 Abortion Act. We did not want it then, and we do not want it now.”
Pro-life charity Right to Life UK is asking the public to call on their MLAs to oppose the extreme regime.
Spokeswoman Catherine Robinson said: “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.”