The Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) report into abortion law in Northern Ireland is at odds with the submissions received and raises serious questions for devolution, campaign group Both Lives Matter said today.
The committee made up entirely of MPs from Great Britain, with not a single member representing any part of Northern Ireland, launched the inquiry in September 2018.
The vast majority of submissions (estimated over 88.7%) from the public in Northern Ireland did not support a change in the abortion law.
Co-Founder of Both Lives Matter, Dawn McAvoy said:
“The report, which was not adopted unanimously, calls for law change to allow abortion in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’. We would welcome consultation about this recommendation, but the proper place for such a debate is in Northern Ireland, not in the committee rooms of Westminster.
“The committee lacked any representation from Northern Ireland. The submissions from those who do live in Northern Ireland clearly favoured no change in the law. Yet the Committee are proposing that Westminster impose abortion law change on us, completely bypassing our elected representatives.
“On the face of it, the recommended changes appear to be limited, but there is no guarantee that any resulting legislation would not be extended to provide abortion access, far beyond these recommendations. It is important the public are aware that the proposals today are a small part of a wider campaign to radically alter abortion law across the UK to remove any protection for all the lives involved in a pregnancy.
“It is unacceptable to take advantage of the political complexities in Northern Ireland to meddle in abortion law when this matter has been the responsibility of Northern Ireland politicians since 1921.
“We are grateful to Eddie Hughes MP and warmly welcome the publication of the alternative ‘Hughes Report’ which, while respecting devolution, makes some very helpful recommendations regarding policy steps that could be taken in Northern Ireland. It is important to note that two members supported the alternative ‘Hughes’ Report and only four voted for the Chair’s report.
“If you look at polling from October last year, it shows that the majority of people (64%, and 66% of women) in Northern Ireland say they do not want Westminster to interfere when it comes to abortion law.
“Thanks to our life-affirming laws there are 100,000 people alive today across NI precisely because we did not accept the same abortion law as Great Britain in 1967. Rather than impose unwelcome and unwanted legislation on Northern Ireland, we call on politicians to invest in improving service provision to enable all pregnant woman to make good decisions for all lives involved.”
Notes to Editors:
Two thirds of women in NI do not want abortion laws imposed by Westminster, according to ComRes polling from October 2018: https://bothlivesmatter.org/66-of-women-in-northern-ireland-do-not-want-abortion-laws-imposed-by-westminster
As of 1.00pm on April 24 the Committee had published 653 written submission on its website. Following analysis of each response, it was found that an estimated 88.7% of responses received by the Committee did not want Westminster to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. 9.9% of responses called for legislative change with regard to abortion while 1.4% did not take a stance either way. This figure accepted the grouping of a petition signed by over 2000 individuals as one submission and a collation of over 130 responses from Alliance for Choice as one submission.
Another ComRes poll also found 93% of people in NI believe that in a pregnancy, both lives matter: https://bothlivesmatter.org/new-comres-poll-shows-93-of-people-in-northern-ireland-believe-that-both-lives-matter
ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
The full report on the 100,000 lives figure is available here: https://bothlivesmatter.org/statistics