Amnesty International and the Family Planning Association (FPA) held a delegation of Labour MPs in Belfast, led by Shadow Secretary of State Owen Smith to consider the law on abortion in Northern Ireland.
This visit follows multiple failed attempts by Amnesty International to pressure the Northern Ireland Assembly to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland, including a petition submitted to the Northern Ireland Assembly where no checks were put in place to ensure that the signatories were from Northern Ireland, or that people could sign the petition more than once and under different names.
Since the snap election in May, Labour have challenged the devolved powers of Northern Ireland by pushing for the UK government to fund abortions in England for Northern Irish women. The government conceded and announced it will fund this by taking the money directly from the women and equalities budget. In last year’s General Election manifesto Labour stated that they were committed to “working with the Assembly” to ensure all women in Northern Ireland could access free and legal abortion, a move that surprised many as it completely dismissed the elected will of the Assembly in Northern Ireland.
A recent study conducted by campaign group Both Lives Matter, whose findings were upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), showed that there are an estimated 100,000 people alive today because of Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion. They would not be alive if the 1967 Abortion Act had been extended to the province.
CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach
“This is another example of Amnesty International, the FPA and the some members of the Labour Party’s complete disregard for the devolution settlement in place in Northern Ireland. It is inappropriate for such a move to be made at a sensitive moment in the talks process.”
“The Northern Ireland Assembly, who were democratically elected by the people in Northern Ireland decided to make no amendments to their current laws on abortion as recently as 2016. These groups have no mandate to seek to override that decision.”
“Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion are framed in a way that provides the best possible outcome for both the mother and the unborn child – balancing both of their needs so that one is not ignored at the detriment of the other. Our legislation currently provides robust support for the unborn child and we must not seek to undermine or remove that vital protection.”
“We recognise that there are difficulties that women face with pregnancies – especially in cases of rape or any life-limiting disability that the unborn child has, but we reject the calls that abortion is the answer.”
“It’s very telling that Amnesty International, the Labour Party and the FPA have all strongly backed offering free abortions in Northern Ireland with no mention of support services, counselling or better provision of information about fostering and adoption for mothers. Their goal is not to provide options for an expectant mother, and long-term support for her, but simply the ‘quick-fix’ of abortion.”