Tomorrow (Tuesday) Labour MP Diana Johnson will be bringing forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill which is seeking to introduce the largest shake-up of abortion law since the 1967 Abortion Act.
This Bill would have the effect of introducing radical changes to abortion practice in England and Wales, and would impose abortion on Northern Ireland. If these proposals were successful, we would see one the most extreme abortion regimes in the world introduced right across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Since the result of Ireland’s abortion referendum, the attention of the abortion lobby has been heavily focused north of the border. Building on leftover momentum from the referendum and without the Northern Ireland Assembly in place, the abortion lobby, along with a small group of Westminster MPs, has strategically timed and placed this Bill in order to take advantage of the unstable political situation in the North. There is no respect for the legal and constitutional position in Northern Ireland inherent in this bill. The potential consequences for devolution, not just in Northern Ireland but everywhere, would be staggering.
Abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is a devolved matter – which means that it is for locally elected representatives and the people of Northern Ireland to debate and consider and for the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate on. Over 97 per cent of MPs and Members of the House of Lords who decide on legislation in Westminster are not from Northern Ireland. This Bill would be a direct and undemocratic interference by Parliament in Ireland. The Johnson bill, if passed, would further damage the Good Friday Agreement which helped bring peace to Northern Ireland and an end to the Troubles just 20 years ago.
The proposal is a brazen one, for not only does it seek to undermine devolution, it is also out of touch with and against the wishes of the Northern Irish people. Recent ComRes polling found that 66 per cent of Northern Irish women are opposed to Westminster-made abortion law being imposed on Northern Ireland. Johnson cannot claim to be a champion of women’s rights when she would ignore the voices of Northern Irish women who don’t welcome her interference.
If Johnson’s proposals were successfully passed by Parliament it would also trigger dramatic change in current abortion law in England and Wales as well. There would no longer be a legal requirement that two doctors certify an abortion. Abortions could potentially be obtained for any reason whatsoever, including gender-selective abortion.
While Ten Minute Rule Bills rarely become law, the abortion lobby is using the vote tomorrow in an attempt to gain momentum ahead of bringing forward an amendment to the Government’s Domestic Abuse Bill or another similar legislative vehicle. It is vital that parliamentarians keep in mind the far-reaching and damaging implications of this bill, and vote to oppose it.
The public can help by contacting their MP to ask them to attend the debate and vote against the Bill when it comes forward to Parliament tomorrow. There are large groups of constituents who are very concerned about these proposals. You can write to your MP now by using the function that Right To Life have set up on their website here.