A Labour government would legalise abortion in Northern Ireland, according to a leaked draft of the party’s manifesto.
The document states that Labour would “continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion – and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.”
The 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised the practice in Britain, never applied to Northern Ireland, which only permits the practice when a woman’s life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.
The matter is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont, however with the future of the power-sharing deal currently uncertain, there is a chance Westminster could reassume direct rule.
The Labour Party has yet to clarify whether it would implement the change during a period of direct rule, or whether it would impose it on a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly.
Previous attempts by Westminster politicians to force abortion on Northern Ireland have ended in failure, with a 2008 proposal blocked by then Leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman over fears it could lead to the House of Lords challenging the existing UK law.
According to the BBC, there were 16 abortions in Northern Ireland in 2014/15, compared to 184,571 in England and Wales.
The Labour Party traditionally does not run candidates in Northern Ireland.
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