Northern Ireland news

Lord Steel brands north's abortion laws 'ridiculous'

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Steel has labelled Northern Ireland's abortion legislation "ridiculous"
Gareth McKeown

THE north's abortion legislation has been branded "ridiculous" by the Liberal Democrat peer responsible for liberalising the law in Britain.

Lord David Steel said it was shocking that Northern Ireland continues to operate under laws dating back to 1861.

Under this legislation abortion is only permitted if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Lord Steel helped introduce the 1967 Abortion Act to Britain, which legalised abortions performed by the NHS up to 28 weeks into pregnancy, later reduced to 24 weeks in 1990.

The peer said it was "extraordinary" the law in the north had not been updated.

"I think politicians (in the House of Commons and the House of Lords) look slightly askance at those from Northern Ireland, and say: 'How can you possibly represent human rights in that territory if you allow your colleagues in Northern Ireland to constantly turn their backs on a sensible law?'," he told the BBC.

Responding to the comments, Baroness Nuala O'Loan said the 1967 Abortion Act was not working in England and it would not be wise to introduce it in the north.

The former Police Ombudsman said she she was "vehemently" opposed to abortion.

Bernadette Smyth, the founder of Precious Life, also said: “Because of our pro-life laws, women and babies are safer in Northern Ireland. David Steel should be taking direction from our MLAs who have the best interests of women and their children at heart by upholding the rights of both mother and child."

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