House of Lords backs extreme abortion law in Northern Ireland

16 June 2020

Last night, peers in the House of Lords voted overwhelmingly in favour of the extreme new abortion law for Northern Ireland, supporting the provisions by 355 votes to 77.

Abortion laws in Northern Ireland were changed by MPs in the House of Commons last year after the Northern Irish Assembly had collapsed due to rows between the DUP and Sinn Féin over a financial scandal. The bill’s purpose was to extend the period to form a Northern Irish executive, but amendments were made to the legislation to impose extreme abortion and same-sex marriage on the devolved nation.

However, earlier this month, the now-sitting Assembly voted against the extreme abortion legislation imposed by Westminster.

Devolved matter

An earlier bid led by independent crossbencher Baroness O’Loan for the regulations to be rejected was heavily defeated by 388 votes to 112. Speaking to the Lords, she stated:

“My Lords, these regulations apply only in Northern Ireland; we now have a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly. Abortion is a devolved matter; the Assembly voted to reject these regulations on 2 June. The wording of the Motion was to “reject” these regulations. Of our 90 MLAs, 75 voted against the provisions for grounds of disability. When the NIO carried out its short consultation, 79% of respondents rejected these proposals. In the past few days, over 18,000 people have signed an open letter to Peers and MPs—I sent it to all noble Lords on Friday. They ask that you listen to them, and to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and do not approve these regulations.”

Extreme abortion regime

The new regulations in Northern Ireland make ‘allowances’ that the law in England and Wales does not. For example, sex-selective abortion would be legal up to 12 weeks and abortion for non-fatal disabilities would be allowed up to birth.

Supporting Baroness O’Loan, Lord Shinkwin asked peers how “denying a human being diagnosed before birth with a non-fatal disability like mine the equal right to be born is somehow not less favourable treatment.”

Speaking to News Letter, he explained: “Although technically the regulations only relate to Northern Ireland, the whole UK Parliament is being invited to endorse them and to thereby legitimise disability discrimination.”

Seven bishops reject extreme abortion

Previously, the Church of England bishops who sit in the Lords had failed to vote on imposing abortion on Northern Ireland. At last night’s, seven of the 26 bishops showed up to vote on this law, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishops of Blackburn, Carlisle, Coventry, Durham, Peterborough and Winchester. All voted against the new regulations.

Andrea Williams, a member of the Church of England’s General Synod, responded to the vote:

“Seven bishops voting against the abortion regulations is a clear improvement from when no bishops voted at all. But the church’s stated opposition to most abortions will continue to ring hollow until the bishops make a strong stand for life in Parliament. Every life matters, including tiny unborn ones, because every human bears God’s image. When this truth is not being clearly proclaimed, nor strongly demonstrated through parliamentary votes, we are not being the salt and light God calls us to be.”

What happens now?

Following the vote in the House of Lords, MPs will now vote on whether to approve the legislation, which will likely take place on Wednesday 17 June.

Please contact your MP and ask them to vote against the extreme abortion regulations for Northern Ireland. Right to Life has made it easy to contact your MP via their website.

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