Despite the fact that 79% of those who responded to a public consultation opposed the changes, the British government today published regulations regarding the provision of abortion in the region that will come into effect next week.
In 2019, abortion was decriminalised in the region over the heads of locally-elected politicians by British MPs in a move that was widely criticised and opposed by all members of the UK Parliament from the North who take their seats.
The new framework provides for abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, abortion up to 24 weeks for physical or mental health reasons and abortion for disability up to birth.
Pro-life groups have also criticised what they describe as limited conscience protections for medical staff, mirroring England and Wales.
Of all submissions received in a six-week public consultation, almost eight out of ten expressed their general opposition to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond what is currently permitted.
According to David Smyth, Head of Evangelical Alliance NI: “over 21,000 people responded to the consultation and 79% opposed the changes. Despite that, the government has brought in regulations which go far beyond any minimum legal requirement contained in the legislation passed last year. These regulations go further than any other part of these islands. This despite our present situation and the establishment of a new Northern Ireland Assembly in the period since the consultation closed, which has not yet even discussed the issue.”
CARE NI Chief Executive Nola Leach insisted that Westminster should never have acted to override the devolved Assembly on this issue. “The NIO [Northern Ireland Office] has also clearly ignored the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who responded to the public consultation on the new framework were completely opposed.
“Consequently, we call on both Houses of Parliament to reject the regulations when both houses get the chance to debate the regulations.”
While the response to the consultation note the public’s opposition to abortion provision, the British government was obliged by legislation it laid out in July 2019 to introduce a framework.
Dawn McAvoy co-founder Both Lives Matter said that “given this season of grief we face, it seems somewhat fitting, that it is now that the new regulatory framework for abortion provision in NI has been announced.
Doctors will be able to conscientiously object to providing the service with the exception where the participation in treatment is necessary to save the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman or girl.
Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr William Henry said the framework “goes too far” and that this is “a deeply sad and worrying moment”.
There was no immediate reaction from the Catholic Church as The Irish Catholic went live with this story.