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Refer abortion laws in Northern Ireland back to Stormont, says US Congressman Chris Smith

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Ian Paisley MP (third from right), Edwin Poots MLA (second from left) and Paul Givan MLA (right) meet with members of Congress in Washington DC

Ian Paisley MP (third from right), Edwin Poots MLA (second from left) and Paul Givan MLA (right) meet with members of Congress in Washington DC

Ian Paisley MP (third from right), Edwin Poots MLA (second from left) and Paul Givan MLA (right) meet with members of Congress in Washington DC

A US Congressman has written to the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis, calling on him to refer Northern Ireland’s abortion laws back to the Stormont Assembly.

New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith penned the letter, also signed by Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, after meeting senior DUP figures including Ian Paisley MP and Paul Givan MLA.

Abortion laws here were changed by Westminster while the Assembly was not sitting.

Mr Smith said Northern Ireland now has more permissive laws than the rest of the UK, and suggested the Westminster abortion reforms undermined devolution.

“The overreach of Westminster and Her Majesty’s Government had been one of the major irritants that long prevented such an accord, which is why devolution was such an important point,” he wrote.

“In the 22 years since the Good Friday Agreement, much progress has been made, but that progress was due to the commitment of all parties to the accord.

“Imposing a liberal abortion regime upon Northern Ireland shows a contempt for the Good Friday Agreement’s devolution provisions, and weakens the entire agreement, which is the framework for the fragile peace that Northern Ireland has known. Finally, imposition of Section 9 — which provides for a far more liberal abortion regime than currently exists in the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom ... runs counter to the fundamental democratic principles of self-governance and self-determination.”

He urged the Secretary of State to “let Northern Ireland work this issue out through its own representative Assembly”.

“Abortion on demand is not the will of the people in Northern Ireland, and if it were, Northern Ireland has a duly constituted Assembly by which it can balance equities and legislate on the matter.

“The democratic traditions of Westminster are some of the oldest in the world,” he said.

“The imposition of Section 9 fails the most fundamental test of any act of government, it neither reflects nor respects the will of the people, who have a right to expect that their Government act in their interest, and carry out their will. I thus appeal to you to re-examine your course of action and defer to the Northern Ireland Assembly, thereby allaying any doubts about HMG’s commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and the principle of devolution.”

The DUP has been highly critical of the Westminster reforms. Earlier this month, First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster told the Secretary of State that Westminster should not “interfere” with the law on abortion here.

Belfast Telegraph