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Politicians unite to fight abortion laws

By Sam Lister

Unionists and nationalists have joined forces to round on English politicians who called for abortion laws to be extended to Northern Ireland.

In an emotive debate at Westminster yesterday politicians raised rape and incest as reasons for bringing the province into line with the rest of the UK while “foetuses being discarded in slop buckets” and consumer babies were raised in the case against.

Martin Salter, a former member of the Northern Ireland Affairs committee who secured the Westminster Hall debate, called on the Government to give women the same rights as those in the rest of the UK.

He said: “It defies belief that somebody could look at 14-year-old girl who had been raped and say they would force that girl to go through the agony of childbirth.”

But he caused fury with his claims “We are pygmy politicians if we do not stand up for people who do not have a voice.”

Mr Salter was accused of wanting devolution but only if that meant the Assembly did what British politicians wanted.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said: “The case he is advancing is certainly not something I was sent here to do.

“Many of us in Northern Ireland get fed up with British politicians thinking they are the political Gullivers while we are the political Lilliputians.”

David Simpson, the DUP’s Upper Bann MP, said any move to impose abortion laws on Northern Ireland were “anti-democratic, anti-libertarian and anti-human rights”.

“The message being sent out by some could not be clearer — ‘we support devolution for you but only so long as you do what we like’. I cannot and would not support that kind of cruelty visited upon the innocent.

“Rather than making Northern Ireland more like the rest of the UK on this issue, it would be far better if they campaigned for the reverse and show the same commitment to the life in the womb as they show for consumer parenthood and disposable babies.

“The abortion laws right across the UK need to be reviewed away from the free for all.”

Labour MP Emily Thornberry suggested a compromise would be to pay for Ulster women to travel to Britain for the procedure rather than introduce it in the province.

But Northern Ireland Minister Paul Goggins insisted that would not work in practice as GPs would not be able to refer women for a procedure that was illegal.

He also said the cost would have to be top sliced from the Assembly’s health budget or English, Welsh and Scottish taxpayers would have to subsidise the move. “Any attempt by us to legislate here would undermine devolution,” he added.

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