Abortion reform for Northern Ireland backed by House of Commons

MPs vote 332 to 99 in favour of motion that could see law changed later this year

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 09 July 2019 18:33 BST
MPs vote for legalising Northern Ireland abortion

MPs have voted in favour of lifting the abortion ban in Northern Ireland.

The Commons divided by 332 votes to 99 in favour of a motion that could lead to the law being changed later this year.

The motion passed says that the government must lift the ban in the province if a new executive at the Stormont assembly is not in place by 21 October.

This would be achieved through ministers agreeing to accept the recommendations of a UN committee report last year, which said the ban in Northern Ireland should be scrapped.

The amendment was proposed by Labour MP Stella Creasy and backed by MPs from across the Commons. As is normal on matters relating to abortion, MPs were given a free vote on the matter.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Creasy said: “I am a passionate defender of women's rights, I believe powerfully that if women are not able to have equal control over their bodies as men are then we will never have true freedom.

”If we say to women we will force you to continue an unwanted pregnancy, they will always be second class citizens to male counterparts.“

Ms Creasy said the UN committee on discrimination against women had “censured” the UK over abortion law in Northern Ireland, saying the way women are treated in the province is “torturous”.

She added: “At this moment in time, if somebody is raped in Northern Ireland and they become pregnant and they seek a termination, they will face a longer prison sentence than their attacker.

"How much longer are the women of Northern Ireland expected to wait? How much more are they expected to suffer until we speak up for the best of what this place does as human rights defenders, not human rights deniers?”

Abortion is a devolved issue in Northern Ireland, and some opponents of Ms Creasy's motion argued that it would be "unconstitutional" for the UK government to intervene.

Tory MP Fiona Bruce said: "Devolution has ensured that abortion is an issue which Northern Ireland and its own assembly has had authority to make decisions on for almost 100 years.“

The DUP's Ian Paisley said: "There is no right under the international treaties to terminate an unborn life, that is the fact of the matter, and we have got to make sure that that right, the right to life, is upheld."

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