A Labour MP says Northern Ireland’s elected representatives should not be allowed to decide on abortion law in the Province.
Emily Thornberry, who represents a London constituency, was speaking at a Westminster Hall debate on the issue of the abortion law in Northern Ireland.
Abortion is only allowed in the Province if the mother’s life would be endangered by continuing with the pregnancy.
The Westminster Government currently has the power to change this law, but wants to hand it to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Miss Thornberry said: “I deeply regret that the powers devolved to Northern Ireland under the Good Friday agreement included those relating to women and abortion. That was a mistake.”
She added: “If we cannot grab back the power that we are about to devolve to Northern Ireland, the least that we can do is allow women from Northern Ireland to have access to abortion under the National Health Service.”
South Antrim MP Dr William McCrea said the real reason the debate had been called was that pro-abortion groups wanted the law to change before it passed into the control of Northern Ireland’s MLAs, who are largely opposed to abortion.
The claim was refuted by Martin Salter, the MP who secured the Westminster Hall debate. Mr Salter insisted it had “nothing to do with the legislative timetable”.
But Dr McCrea said pro-abortion campaigners knew that “once the responsibility is transferred, as part of the handover of policing and justice powers, it will be very difficult to make a change”.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Paul Goggins reminded MPs at the debate that all four major parties in Northern Ireland were opposed to a change in the law.
In response to this point Miss Thornberry argued that all the recent ‘gay rights’ legislation introduced in the Province was “imposed in the teeth of opposition from local politicians”.
But Mr Goggins said Northern Ireland’s MPs wanted the matter to be left to the people who lived there, referring to the main party leaders’ warnings that “any attempt to legislate here would undermine the devolution settlement that we have all worked so hard to achieve”.