Belfast Telegraph

Calls for House of Commons vote to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland

By Gareth Cross

Labour MP Stella Creasy has called for a vote to be held in the House of Commons on legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland except in extreme specific circumstances.

In theory, a woman could still be handed a life-term in prison for having an illegal abortion.

Abortions are currently legal in the rest of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland are having a referendum on the issue on May 25th.

Ms Creasy called for the vote to combat the "cruel, inhumane and degrading" treatment of woman in Northern Ireland who seek abortions.

She raised the matter during Northern Ireland questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

MPs were discussing equality and human rights in Northern Ireland.

"Given the absence of an Assembly, why does the Secretary of State choose to recognise the importance of a free vote in this place on same-sex marriage, but refuses to extend the same principle to Northern Ireland women's fundamental right not to be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy," Ms Creasy asked.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley said the matter should be decided by people in Northern Ireland.

"Abortion is a very sensitive issue and there are very strongly held views on both sides of the debate. It is also as she has said a devolved matter.

"She has referred to the fact that I am on the record as saying that same-sex marriage on this side of the house is a matter of conscience and that is also true on the matter of abortion.

"It is not right for the UK government to try and undermine the devolution settlement in Northern Ireland by trying to force onto people in Northern Ireland something that we think is right in Westminster, the people of Northern Ireland have to make that decision."

Walthamstow MP Ms Creasy has been prominent in her support for legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

In 2017 she secured government support for free abortions for women from Northern Ireland in England after organising a cross-party petition threatening to defeat the government's Queen's Speech if the concession was not granted. 

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