Northern Ireland news

Parliament urged to reject 'flawed abortion law'

Baroness Nuala O'Loan. Picture by Declan Roughan

BARONESS Nuala O'Loan and DUP MP Carla Lockhart have jointly appealed for parliament to reject Northern Ireland's new abortion regulations when they are debated this week.

They said that as well as the Assembly voting to reject the regulations "by an absolute majority" this month, the weight of public opinion was also against the change in the law.

The House of Lords is due to debate the Abortion Regulations (NI) 2020 today, with the Commons debating them later.

"Last year over 23,000 people wrote to the Prime Minister asking that the proposed law be not passed," they said.

"In the past few days almost 16,000 people from Northern Ireland have written to Parliamentarians asking that the vote of the NI Assembly and their voices, rejecting this flawed abortion law, be listened to.

"If the same proportion of the entire UK population had signed such a petition, that would equate to over 600,000 people."

At the Assembly, they said, "75 of our 90 MLAs voted against the provisions in the regulations which permit abortion on the basis of non-fatal disability up to birth".

Baroness O'Loan and Ms Lockhart said that 79 per cent of respondents to a consultation in Northern Ireland last year said "they did not want the kind of laws suggested in the consultation".

The law cannot be amended when it is debated this week.

One of their principle objections is that the regulations will permit "sex-selective abortion up to 12 weeks".

"The sex of an unborn child can be determined long before 12 weeks," said Baroness O'Loan and Ms Lockhart.

"The UN CEDAW Report said sex-selective abortions should not happen because they perpetuate negative stereotypes and prejudices towards women. They are not permitted in the rest of the UK."

The new law, Baroness O'Loan and Ms Lockhard said, also permits abortion "up to birth in cases of non-fatal disability, something which the UN CEDAW Committee and the UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities both condemned as perpetuating negative stereotypes and prejudices against people with disabilities".

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church has written an open letter to parliamentarians, describing the abortion legislation as "undemocratic, discriminatory and detrimental to society".

Rev Daniel Kane, convener of the Church's Council for Public Affairs, said the manner of the law's introduction meant people in Northern Ireland had been "disenfranchised on a matter of key importance".

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Northern Ireland news