Press Release

Women’s committee goes against 88.7% of respondents over Northern Ireland abortion law change

25 April 2019         Issued by: Christian Legal Centre

Following an inquiry, the Women and Equalities Committee has today released its findings which recommends changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland despite 88.7% of submissions saying there should be no change to the law.

The publication of the reports follows a hearing in February at the House of Commons where the Christian Legal Centre’s Roger Kiska gave expert evidence to the Committee. Roger strongly defended the humanity and rights of the unborn child and advocated respect for the devolution settlement where the issue of abortion remains firmly within the jurisdiction of  Northern Ireland. Since 1921, Westminster has respected the devolution agreement and not sought to interfere with the sovereign rights of Northern Ireland to protect the unborn child. Last year, Northern Ireland recorded only 12 abortions compared to the rest of the UK which sees 200,000 terminations each year as a result of the eroding of the 1967 Abortion Act. There is evidence that 100,000 people are alive today because Northern Ireland has chosen not to legalise abortion.

Two intervening events precipitated the committee hearing, and the public consultation that led to the hearing. First, a UN compliance committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) issued a report condemning Northern Ireland for its abortion laws in February 2018. Then in June, the Supreme Court issued a non-binding judgment suggesting that Northern Ireland’s prohibition of abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality were incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Committee’s report did not come out in support of introducing abortion on demand to Northern Ireland from Westminster, as demanded by the pro abortion lobby. It did however make a recommendation that Westminster should change the law in Northern Ireland to allow for abortion in limited circumstances such as when an unborn child has a ‘life limiting disability’.

An alternative report, which was drafted by Committee Member Eddie Hughes, MP for Walsall North, made a number of recommendations which were in line with the vast majority of submissions to the Inquiry for no change to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. The Hughes Report however did not receive enough support to be adopted.

Following analysis of each response, it was found that an estimated 88.7% of responses received by the Committee did not want Westminster to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. Polling undertaken by ComRes in October 2018 also revealed that 64% of the population in Northern Ireland think that changing the law on this issue should be a decision for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives. The polling also showed a strong majority of women reject interference from Westminster on this sensitive issue with 66% agreeing that this was a decision for Northern Ireland. The strongest support among age groups surveyed came from the youngest age group, 18-34 year olds, with 70% agreeing that they did not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster.

In response to the report, the Christian Legal Centre’s, Roger Kiska, said:

“The people of Northern Ireland have shown clearly that they do not want any change to the law and yet some in this committee seem  determined to force some kind of incremental  change upon them. The premise of the report was based on two events, neither of which have any binding legal effect on  Parliament or mandate to make Parliament intervene  in the affairs of Northern Ireland in relation to their laws protecting the unborn child.

“Ultimately, the Committee has no authority or competency to order anything to be done in relation to Northern Ireland. In any event, the liberalisation of abortion in limited circumstances has never been the end game of the Committee. It has been abortion on demand and the decriminalisation of abortion.

“The report laments that only 12 abortions took place in Northern Ireland in 2017/2018. This compared to nearly 200, 000 abortions in England and Wales during the same time period. The motivations of some on this committee and the threat they pose to the rights of the people of Northern Ireland and those of the unborn child are disturbing and need protecting now more than ever.”


Notes for editors:

  • The alternative ‘Hughes Report’ is available on pages 58 – 70 of the report document that is available from the Women and Equalities Committee.
  • As of 1.00pm on April 24 the Committee had published 653 written submission on its website. Following analysis of each response, it was found that an estimated 88.7% of responses received by the Committee did not want Westminster to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. 9.9% of responses called for legislative change with regard to abortion while 1.4% did not take a stance either way. This figure accepted the grouping of a petition signed by over 2000 individuals as one submission and a collation of over 130 responses from Alliance for Choice as one submission.
  • ComRes interviewed 1,013 Northern Irish adults online between 8th and 15th October 2018. Data was weighted to be representative of all Northern Irish adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available here:

The alternative report published on pages 58-70 of the published output from the Inquiry made a number of key points and recommendations including the following:

  • The UK Government should not undermine the devolution settlement: (para. 17) “Our Committee cannot recommend any change to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland as it would undermine the devolution settlement, nor is it mandated that the UK Government act on the basis of international obligations.”
  • There is no legal imperative for the UK Government to change abortion law in Northern Ireland: (18) “Aside from the fact that observation of human rights matters is a devolved competency, there is currently no legal imperative for the Northern Ireland Assembly to change the law on abortion arising from current jurisprudence.”
  • The Supreme Court has not made a declaration of incompatibility: (19) “…there was no declaration of incompatibility made by the Supreme Court in the Northern Ireland Human Rights Committee (NIHRC) case in June 2018.”
  • Recommendations made by the unelected UN CEDAW Committee do not have the backing of international law, are only advisory and not binding: (34) “Our Committee therefore notes that the views expressed by the CEDAW Committee is advisory—and in this case without the backing of international law that they are supposed to work within—so to suggest that the Government establish a framework to address the recommendations of the CEDAW report places a disproportionate and misguided degree of authority on its substantive findings and the limited jurisdiction of this unelected UN Committee.”
  • There should be improved support for women with a child with a life-limiting disability: (para 48-50) “The Department should review whether improvements to the maternal health strategy and the implementation of the Regional Centre can be implemented as soon as possible to improve the overall care for women with a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.”
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