Leaked Labour manifesto pledge for abortion rights for Northern Ireland women

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously vowed to bring abortion legislation to Northern Ireland. Picture by Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

A LEAKED draft of Labour's general election manifesto includes plans to extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland.

The document states that Labour would "continue to ensure a woman's right to choose a safe, legal abortion - and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland".

It was due to be approved by the party's governing executive last night.

The 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised abortion in England, Scotland and Wales, was never applied to Northern Ireland. Abortions are only permitted in the north when a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

However, the commitment has been criticised by pro-life organisations.

Liam Gibson from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said it "demonstrates a shocking level of utter contempt for the people" of Northern Ireland.

"We are outraged but so should every single person in Northern Ireland by this high-handed interference," he said.

"We have the legal and constitutional right to make our own laws on issues such as abortion, which is a matter for the devolved Assembly in Stormont.

"If the Labour Party were to carry out its threat to over-ride the democratic settlement in the province in order to push its own extremist and unpopular abortion agenda, it would severely damage the credibility of the political process and make the existence of the Assembly meaningless."

While the plans to extend abortion rights to the north has been part of Labour's policies for several years, it has never been included in any party election manifesto.

Mr Corbyn has previously vowed to bring abortion legislation to Northern Ireland and in a visit to Belfast in August 2015 he pledged to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to the north.

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