Abortion law in Northern Ireland: An evolving story

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Proposed by Labour lawmaker Stella Creasy, and backed by members of other parties, the amendment demands that the government ensure "the provision of adequate funding and guidance so that all United Kingdom citizens including those from Northern Ireland may access medical services including abortion procedures in England if they so wish without charge".

Stella Creasy's call to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in mainland Britain was dramatically passed by the government.

Ms Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow in London, is yet to withdraw her amendment following Mr Hammond's comments, so a vote may well still be held.

"We will continue to seek a change to the law so that women and girls in Northern Ireland have the choice of accessing a termination of pregnancy locally in circumstances of serious malformation of the foetus, rape or incest, without being criminalised for doing so", said Mr Allamby.

The colonial arrogance on the part of Stella and Co is, it would seem, based on the premise that people in Northern Ireland are too thick or too morally obtuse to work out a position on this fraught moral issue for themselves: both, probably.

Half a century later, abortion law in Northern Ireland still differs starkly from rest of the UK.

Northern Ireland Assembly members previous year voted against legalising abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

In a landmark ruling in 2015, Belfast's High Court found that the laws breached the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide exceptions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or sexual crime.

Justine Greening, Britain's minister for women and equalities, said the government was committed to providing safe abortions. The Family Planning Association this week published a letter to Jeremy Hunt, co-signed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and a number of MPs and Northern Irish Members of the Legislative Assembly which laid out a fully costed care pathway to fund these abortions, but it wasn't until faced with the prospect of a likely defeat in the Commons that the government agreed to end this discrimination.

It said the complex moral and religious questions behind the issue should be determined by a legislature.

"My understanding is that my Right Honourable Friend, the Minister for Women and Equalities, either has made, or is just about to make, an announcement by way of a letter to members of this House explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland".

Things in Northern Ireland can change pretty quickly.

But there was speculation that the Labour government had struck a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to leave the abortion laws intact in return for their support for its plans to detain terrorism suspects without charge for 42 days'.

Speaking in the Commons, Mrs Miller said: "When will the Government be making a statement on access to abortion in Northern Ireland?" Will Parliament protect the rights of women in Northern Ireland when the courts have not?

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