Northern Ireland news

Paul Givan: I'll go to court to oppose abortion law changes

First minister Paul Givan has said he will go to court in order to oppose abortion law directions from Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. Picture by Brian Lawless

FIRST minister Paul Givan has said he is prepared to go to court to resist the British government in offering full abortion services in the north.

The executive has been directed to set up abortion services in Northern Ireland similar to what is offered to women in other parts of the UK, after an intervention from Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.

The move by Mr Lewis, which asks the first and deputy first ministers to allow the plans to be put to the executive for approval, follows the British government ruling during the absence of devolved government that full abortion services should be implemented by next March at the latest.

However, speaking to the BBC, the DUP's Mr Givan, who replaced Arlene Foster as first minister in June after she was deposed as leader, said he would opposed the plans.

Mr Givan, whose party has opposed any easing of restrictions to abortion services in the north, said he would defy the order from Mr Lewis.

He said the order had "profound constitutional ramifications" and queried if such orders would be made regarding other issues in the future.

"It is my intention to resist what the secretary of state has done by way of direction and I have to look at all my options both politically and legally," the first minister said.

"The secretary of state may have to take me to court."

Mr Givan added that he was seeking advice from the attorney general on the matter.

Meanwhile, Catholic bishops in the north have warned that enforcing the changes to abortion law risked harming the peace process.

Speaking on behalf of northern bishops, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said Mr Lewis' direction was "the latest in a line of decisions by the current Westminster government which we believe threaten the fragile balance of relationships at the heart of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement".

"We encourage everyone who believes in the equal right to life and compassionate care for a mother and her unborn child to ask local candidates and political parties to explain their position on these interventions," he said.

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