MPs vote to progress extending abortion law to Northern Ireland
MPs in the Commons have voted in favour of an amendment which aims to extend access to abortion in Northern Ireland. by 332 votes to 99, majority 233.
The amendment, which was proposed by Labour MP Stella Creasy, was passed by 332 votes to 99, a majority of 233.
Ms Creasy's amendment obliges ministers to comply with their human rights obligation in Northern Ireland in relation to abortion, and thereby change a law that currently risks heavy jail sentences for women who have an abortion.
It has been added to a wider bill that would delay Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley's obligation to call a fresh assembly election to October.
During the debate on the issue, DUP MP Ian Paisley said relaxing abortion laws would lead to an increase in "unregulated abortions" and said the "right to life" needs to be upheld.
Mr Paisley said: "There is no right under the international treaties to terminate an unborn life, that is the fact of the matter, and we have got to make sure that that right, the right to life, is upheld."
He criticised the SNP, saying their decision to vote is "tactical" and designed to cover up splits in the party.
Mr Paisley said: "It is very disappointing that today, tactically, the SNP decided to change that.
"They are entitled to make that change, but to try to suggest that it's all the DUP's fault when we know that leaks that are worse than those coming out of Washington indicate that the splits in the ranks of this party in front of us, that they have more problems internally on this matter, and they are trying to use the cover of this, they're trying to use the cover of this matter to take away from their own splits."
Speaking following the vote, Karen Murray of the Royal College of Midwives, said the move is a "significant step forward" in the fight for abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland.
“The lack of access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland has already been declared a breach of human rights by the supreme court and the passing of this amendment today means the Government will now have to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland by the end of October this year," she said.
“The current legal arrangements in Northern Ireland are not only unfair to women when it comes to choices about their own healthcare options, but the law also impacts on midwives’ ability to deliver high quality maternity care to women.”
The 1967 Abortion Act which governs the rest of the UK was not extended to Northern Ireland.
A termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.
Reverend Trevor Gribben of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said the decision of abortion should be the responsibility of MLAs.
He said: “The decisions made today raise many questions, not least how the Government intends to consult on these sensitive – and with regards to abortion complex – matters, if they remain unchanged in the final Act, and bring forward legislation within the limited timescale as required by these amendments. There are also serious implications for Northern Ireland’s already overstretched budget.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital