Since 2010, the Northern Ireland Assembly has had responsibility for policy and legislation with regard to abortion. Our locally elected MLAs have the power to maintain the law as it stands or to amend it. Consequently, it might be thought that the debate around abortion should not be considered important with regard to the upcoming Westminster election to be held on the 8th of June. However, we at Both Lives Matter believe that this election really does matter with regard to this crucially important issue for two main reasons.
- At the current time, it is not clear whether the Northern Ireland Executive will be reformed. If it doesn’t, Direct Rule may be introduced and the decision making powers with regard to abortion will be returned to Westminster. This potentially could lead to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, whoever this may be after the election, seeking to introduce a change to the law on abortion or pro-choice MPs putting forward legislation or legislative amendments to bring forward such a change. If Direct Rule does return, our MPs will be our only elected voice in Parliament representing the views of people in Northern Ireland. We need as many MPs as possible to stand up for both mother and unborn child at Westminster if Direct Rule comes back and to resist any change to the law here.
- Policy on abortion in Great Britain has an impact on policy here in Northern Ireland. Even if the Northern Ireland Executive is reformed, having MPs standing up for the pro-life voice at Westminster is valuable as they can speak in to debates which are taking place there. It is highly likely that the legislation around abortion will be considered again in the next Parliament, especially considering the fact that 60% of respondents (and 70% of women respondents) to a recent ComRes poll indicated that they believed the time limit on abortion should be reduced from the current 24 week limit. Northern Irish taxpayers also currently fund abortion services being provided overseas through the International Aid budget. We need MPs who will oppose the use of taxpayer money for these purposes and who will stand up for the dignity and worth of both mothers and unborn children both in Northern Ireland and around the world. 65% of respondents to the ComRes poll referenced above indicated that they oppose tax-payer money going to fund abortions overseas. Many in Northern Ireland would wholly agree with this sentiment, and we need MPs who are willing to question the current funding given to the abortion industry around the world.
If you want to find out where candidates standing in your constituency stand on the issue of abortion, “Where do they stand?” have produced a very helpful tool which allows you to email all of your candidates to ask them about this issue. You can find the tool here. This election does matter- we hope that pro-life people will think carefully about where their candidates stand on this issue before they vote.
 For more information on the issue of the funding of abortion internationally by the British Government, see http://engage17.org.uk/life/abortion-international.