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Peers overwhelmingly back NI abortion regulations despite Stormont opposition

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Emotive issue: Lord Younger

Emotive issue: Lord Younger

Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament (

Emotive issue: Lord Younger

Peers at Westminster last night overwhelmingly backed abortion regulations for Northern Ireland despite opposition by the Stormont Assembly.

The House of Lords supported the provisions by 355 votes to 77 — a majority of 278.

An earlier bid led by independent crossbencher Baroness O’Loan for the regulations to be rejected was heavily defeated by 388 votes to 112, majority 276.

Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws were changed by MPs last year at a time when Stormont was collapsed.

However, earlier this month the now-sitting Assembly registered its opposition to the “imposition” of regulations by Westminster, which permit abortions up to birth in cases of severe non-fatal disability.

Outlining the measures, Tory frontbencher Viscount Younger of Leckie said: “The regulations provide the new legal framework for access to abortion services in Northern Ireland and ensure ongoing legal certainty.”

Prior to the changes, women and girls were forced to travel to England to access services or look to unsafe alternatives outside of the healthcare system, potentially putting themselves at risk, he said.

Lord Younger added: “I recognise that this is an emotive issue and views on all sides of the debate are strongly held.

“These are extremely difficult and often distressing decisions for women and girls. However, the essence of these regulations is to provide women and girls with the opportunity to be able to make individual informed decisions based on their own health and wider circumstances.

“As a result of the absence of the Assembly and a functioning Executive, Parliament placed this duty on the Government to act to protect the human rights of women and girls.”

But opposing the regulations, Lady O’Loan said: “We now have a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly. Abortion is a devolved matter. The Assembly voted to reject these regulations on June 2. I ask you to listen to the people of Northern Ireland. Listen to our Assembly. Do not approve these regulations.”

Belfast Telegraph