Westminster Abortion Order to N. Ireland "must be scrapped"

Precious Life is supported a legal challenge to abortion laws in Northern Ireland, which began at the High Court in Belfast on Monday 4 Oct. The case heard that Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis exceeded his legal authority when he granted himself an unprecedented level of control over abortion in Northern Ireland, and his actions are incompatible with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Precious Life held a vigil outside the High Court during the two-day case.

BACKGROUND: In October 2019 while Stormont was suspended, abortion was forced on Northern Ireland by the Westminster Parliament through Section 9 of the NI (Executive Formation etc) Act. Their new abortion regulations came into force in March 2020. Latest official figures reveal that over 1556 babies have been killed by abortion since then. But despite the large numbers of babies already killed, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis issued a directive in July to force Stormont to fully commission the abortion of babies up to the 24th week in pregnancy, and abortion up to the moment of birth for babies with disabilities, including Down’s Syndrome, Club Foot and Cleft Palette. Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance said they supported the abortion directive and welcomed the Westminster Government’s interference in Northern Ireland’s laws. However, the Attorney General at that time made clear that Brandon Lewis had “exceeded his powers” in imposing his extreme abortion regulations.

Director of Precious Life Bernadette Smyth said, “Westminster not only ignored the right to life of unborn babies, but also blatantly ignored democracy and devolution when it seized power to override our Stormont Assembly.

Westminster ignored the 79% of people who responded to the public consultation on abortion law in Northern Ireland by rejecting the government’s regulations and stated they did not want to see any change to our pro-life laws.”

She added, “Brandon Lewis’ abortion directive must be scrapped. He interfered in a devolved matter even though the NI Assembly is up and running. Westminster does not ignore the principles of devolution for Scotland and Wales, yet they have no hesitation in doing so in Northern Ireland.

“Westminster’s regulations lack legitimacy and have been imposed on Northern Ireland against the principles of devolution and democracy. The people of Northern Ireland have the right through the Good Friday Agreement to have their wishes respected and upheld.”

 Mr John Larkin QC argued there was a "fundamental lacuna" in how the regulations were drawn up by the Northern Ireland Office.

He said there had been no creation of a duty when the laws were drafted.

"Here we have a minister of the Crown issuing a direction, with no status given to the direction and no-one is obliged to respond in the terms of the direction," he told the court.

"In the absence of that, the rule of the requirement is precisely that, to ignore it."

He argued the formal direction had omitted details specifying the requirement for the Northern Ireland Executive, or Stormont departments individually, to comply.

"A minister of the Crown cannot boss people about unless the law gives them power to do it and act in accordance with his edict, and this doesn't.

"The Northern Ireland Office may wish such a provision had been made, it may be bitterly regretting it now, but in these regulations as it stands there is no obligation to comply with them."

The legal team for the Secretary of State arrogantly boasted that the "supremacy" of the Westminster Parliament gives him the "authority" to order the killing of more unborn babies in Northern ireland.

The abortion challenge lasted for two days, but it could be several months before judgement is delivered

Bernadette Smyth concluded, “Precious Life will continue our campaign to Repeal Section 9 and restore full protection for all unborn babies in Northern Ireland.”

 Watch BBC news report...


« Back to News