May urged to act to liberalise Northern Ireland’s abortion laws
The Prime Minister has been accused of failing women with every day that passes without action.
Theresa May faced calls to act urgently to give MPs the opportunity to liberalise Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.
The Prime Minister has been reluctant to intervene in the row because it is a devolved issue, but the collapse of the Stormont administration means MPs have pressed for action at Westminster.
Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd accused Mrs May of “failing women” with every day that passes without action.
There have been repeated calls for reform in Northern Ireland since the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to back reform of its abortion laws.
But Mrs May’s DUP allies staunchly oppose relaxing restrictions in Northern Ireland.
Women who have been affected by the restrictions were due to meet MPs in the Commons on Tuesday to push for action.
Mr Lloyd said: “Theresa May and her Government are failing women on abortion with every passing day.
“An immediate action the Prime Minister should take is to meet with all Northern Ireland political parties and agree legislation on this issue, and then bring this to the House of Commons as a matter of urgency.
“Abortion must be decriminalised and a human rights compliant framework for access put in place. Nothing else will suffice.
“We must listen to women and the organisations working with them on the need for change and then fulfil our duty to deliver this.”
Amnesty International’s campaigns manager for Northern Ireland Grainne Teggart said: “Nothing but an apparent lack of will is preventing Theresa May from doing this.
“It’s hugely insulting and negligent to women to continue to hide behind devolution as justification for the denial of healthcare that women in the rest of the UK can take for granted.
“All the time the Prime Minister stays cruelly silent on this issue, we will grow stronger and louder in our demands for justice and equality for the women of Northern Ireland.
“It is time the Prime Minister listened to women’s experiences and witnessed the harsh reality of a near total ban on abortion.”
Women and equalities minister Penny Mordaunt suggested that ministers could act if the Stormont Assembly remains in limbo.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley was working to get it back up and running, adding: “But if that doesn’t happen, she feels we really do need to consult the women of Northern Ireland about next steps.
“Westminster has already said if Northern Ireland doesn’t act, it will.
“What I think we need to ensure is if Westminster chooses to act in the absence of Stormont, it will be done in a way that is with the wishes of the women of Northern Ireland, and whatever service might stem from that is designed around their needs and their wishes.”