Parliament: Abortion should be legalised in Northern Ireland, say MPs

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The Independent Online
THE BATTLE for the liberalisation of the UK's abortion laws will intensify today with a call for the procedure to be legalised in Northern Ireland.

A report calling for the change, from the all-party group on population, development and reproductive health, could be followed by a backbench bill to allow abortion on demand. The Labour chair of the group, Christine McCafferty, MP for Calder Valley, came eighth in the ballot of MPs for the right to introduce private legislation and is considering abortion liberalisation, although it would stand no chance of reaching the statute book. "I have about 400 letters and I will think very carefully," she said.

Her group's report recommends that the Government allow abortion in Northern Ireland to end the anomaly with mainland Britain. It also calls on the Government to recognise "the need for safe, legal abortion as an integral part of sexual and reproductive health services for young people".

Maria Eagle, Labour MP for Liverpool Garston, who came second in the ballot, is also being pressed to take up a private member's bill on liberalising abortion laws, although last night both MPs said they had yet to reach a decision.

Ms McCafferty is a committee member of the Parliamentary Pro-Choice group which met in the Commons last night to discuss tactics for moving forward its agenda for abortion liberalisation.

The Pro-Choice group, chaired by Baroness Gould, is hoping to use backbench legislation to change the law to allow abortion on demand up to 14 weeks into pregnancy, as reported in The Independent last week. From 15 to 24 weeks, women would require the agreement of one doctor.

At present, women require the agreement of two doctors, which some claim can lead to delays. The group also want to require doctors to register if they are opposed to abortion on personal grounds to avoid them being involved in the procedure.

Ms Eagle, twin sister of social security minister Angela Eagle, is said to be considering the issue, but friends indicated that she was unlikely to introduce a bill on abortion.