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New Northern Ireland abortion rules voted in by MPs must be accepted at Assembly, says minister


Stella Creasy with her baby in the House of Commons

Stella Creasy with her baby in the House of Commons

Stella Creasy with her baby in the House of Commons

Stormont must accept new regulations on abortion made in Westminster despite them being rejected by the Assembly, the Northern Ireland minister has announced.

MPs voted last July to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland if the Stormont Assembly was not up and running by October.

On Tuesday, a DUP motion at Stormont rejecting the "imposition" of abortion regulations by Westminster was carried by 46 votes to 40.

A Sinn Fein amendment, which called for abortions to only be restricted in cases of severe fetal impairments, such as Down's syndrome, was voted down.

Responding to an urgent question in the Commons from the DUP, Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker said: "I recognise that the Assembly did debate one aspect of the regulations on Tuesday - severe fetal impairment - and passed a motion stating it does not support the provision allowing for abortions in cases of severe fetal impairment without time limit.

"While I respect the Assembly's right to state their position on this, it doesn't have any bearing on the legal obligations that have been placed on us by this Parliament."

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader in the House of Commons, said the regulations should not be voted on by Westminster as Stormont is back up and running again.

He told MPs: "It was argued that Parliament has the right to legislate on abortion in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning Assembly. But that Assembly has now been restored for almost five months and it is absolutely not the right way forward for Parliament to vote on these regulations."

Shadow Secretary of State Louise Haigh said that more needs to be done to get abortion services fully up and running in Northern Ireland.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said that the "rushed manner" in which the regulations had been progressed had thrown up "deep flaws".

Labour's Stella Creasy, who has long campaigned for abortion to be decriminalised in Northern Ireland, spoke while cradling her baby daughter in her arms.

She warned that devolution "doesn't absolve us of our responsibility to uphold the human rights of every UK citizen".

Ms Creasy, who during her pregnancy was targeted with posters by anti-abortion group CBRUK because of her pro-choice stance, also urged the Assembly to come up with alternative proposals if they disagree with the Government's plans.

In May, an anti-abortion campaigner failed to overturn a ban on posting images of Ms Creasy alongside photos of a dead foetus in her constituency.

Speaking as her daughter gurgled away, Ms Creasy said: "We all recognise that this is a difficult issue for many and that there are strongly held views on all sides of this debate.

"But one of the reasons why this House stood up for the human rights of all women in the United Kingdom was just because it was too difficult didn't mean that their rights should be denied. And devolution doesn't absolve us of our responsibility to uphold the human rights of every UK citizen.

"And I respect the argument that the minister is making, as does my daughter, that the human rights are at the heart of all of this, and that the role of the Assembly should be to come up with its alternative proposals if it doesn't like these regulations.

"Because to not propose these regulations would mean further delay and possibly women making unsafe choices in Northern Ireland because there isn't clarity about what services are available to them."

Belfast Telegraph