PRESS RELEASE: Government announces proposed unregulated abortion framework for NI, even more extreme than law in Britain


5th November 2019

Government announces proposed unregulated abortion framework for NI, even more extreme than law in Britain

The Government this week launched a consultation on a proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland which goes far beyond the existing law in England and Wales, and that of the Republic of Ireland.

The proposals go far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. The proposal seeks to introduce an extreme abortion framework which scraps many of the legal safeguards which are at present provided under the Abortion Act in England and Wales.

The introduction of the new framework is proposed to take place on March 31st 2020 following the current ‘limbo period’ in Northern Ireland. Because of the change in the law on October 22, there is now no law protecting the unborn child through to 28-weeks. During this ‘limbo period’, there is only limited and vague guidance from the Government, advising how abortion should be provided during this time period.

Precious Life Director Bernadette Smyth said today:

“The Government’s proposed abortion framework goes far beyond the requirements of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019. The proposed framework removes virtually all meaningful legal protections for babies in the womb, and drops many of the legal safeguards provided by the 1967 Abortion Act in England and Wales. These proposals open the door wide to serious endangerment of women’s health and safety by opening abortion provision up to any healthcare professional, which could include nurses, midwives, pharmacists, healthcare assistants, art therapists and dieticians.

The framework further seriously jeopardises the health and safety of women in Northern Ireland as it removes the requirement that two medical doctors sign off on an abortion. The proposal does not include a legal limit on the locations where abortions can take place, potentially permitting dangerous home use of both abortion pills along with abortion provision in school nurse clinics, GPs surgeries, mobile abortion clinics and pharmacies.

The proposed framework stipulates that in practise, abortion on demand would be available to either 22 or 24 weeks under mental health grounds. Abortion for any and every reason would be available to either 12 or 14 weeks. This would allow abortion based on the baby’s sex on an on-demand basis throughout this time period, with no specific provision outlawing sex-selective abortion through 22/24 weeks.

The proposal would also mean the legalisation of abortion for disabilities, including club foot, cleft lip, anencephaly and Down’s syndrome amongst other conditions, likely available right up to the moment of birth.

Because of the pro-life laws previously enshrined in law in Northern Ireland, babies in the womb were given legal protection and progressive, compassionate care which we could be proud of. Against the democratic will of the electorate, who had persistently elected pro-life politicians, and against the principles of devolution, all meaningful legal protection for unborn babies and pregnant women has now been stripped away.

The people of Northern Ireland have not given license nor approval to the new devastating abortion regime which will now be foisted upon them by a British Government which does not represent them. This proposed framework is a shocking and unconcealed attempt to further undermine the will of the people of Northern Ireland.

Westminster’s abortion law was never, and will never be, in the name of the people of Northern Ireland, many of whom have fought relentlessly against this law, joining Precious Life’s ‘Fight-Back’ public awareness campaign, writing letters, sending emails, making phone calls, canvassing and lobbying their elected representatives to stop this barbaric law. These guidelines are a further insult to the people of Northern Ireland, following the draconian imposition of this extreme abortion law by Westminster, and what’s clear is that this framework would likely lead to an even larger increase in the number of babies killed in abortions here.

Following the imposition of Europe's most extreme abortion law, this consultation will allow the people here to finally have a say on the legal framework being proposed. Despite the truly catastrophic nature of these guidelines, Precious Life welcome this platform, which will give the people of Northern Ireland an opportunity to express their views.

Although this consultation sadly will not be able to stop this law, it is still extremely important in shaping the regulatory framework which likely have an impact on the number of abortions taking place. Further, we will, if necessary, challenge the inclusion of provision to introduce buffer zones to stop pro-life organisations like Precious Life offering help and alternatives to women at abortion centres.

 Every woman in a crisis pregnancy deserves to be offered life-affirming help to end the crisis, not the life of her unborn child – and we will ensure that this help and support continues to be offered under this new regime.”

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