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Government: 'No plans' to change NI abortion law

19 July 2007

The United Kingdom government says it has no plans to change Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion law and would expect the province's assembly to take over legislation in this area. Mr Paul Goggins MP, a UK minister responsible for Northern Ireland, declared the policy in written answers to MPs' questions. [News Letter, 18 July] Mrs Betty Gibson, chairwoman of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: "Until the power to decide abortion legislation rests with the Assembly, pro-abortion MPs who do not represent anyone in Northern Ireland will be able to impose the Abortion Act on the people here. The pro-abortion position dominates the House of Commons. Any attempt to modify the Act is likely to result in many more abortions. Some MPs have declared their intention to push for the extension of the Act to Northern Ireland when the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill is debated later this year. If the violence of the Troubles is not to be replaced by the violence of abortion, it is vital that members of the public write to Gordon Brown urging him not to allow any liberalisation of the Abortion Act." [SPUC, 19 July]

Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) could be investigated by the European Commission following its unsuccessful attempt to stop a 17-year-old girl from travelling to Britain for an abortion. Dutch MEP Kartika Tamara Liotard claimed the HSE breached the rights of a patient mobility within the EU. She has asked the commission to investigate the Miss D case, in which Ireland's High Court ruled a four months' pregnant teenage girl could not be legally stopped from travelling to Britain for a termination. The MEP also raised a separate case relating to abortion rights in Poland. She is expecting to get a response to her inquiry within weeks. [Sunday Business Post, 15 July]

Abortion is now legal in Portugal up to the 10th week of pregnancy. The controversial law, passed in parliament by the ruling Socialists, came into effect on Sunday. The referendum campaign pitted the urban young against people from traditional rural areas and the Catholic Church. Local media reports indicated that at least nine regional hospitals would not carry out abortions, because several doctors refuse to perform them. [CNN, 15 July]

Abortion may be completely decriminalised in the Australian state of Victoria if a new bill is passed in the state parliament. The legislation proposed by Candy Broad (Labour) would remove abortion from the Victorian Crimes Act, effectively lifting the restraints on abortion laid down by the Supreme Court of Victoria ruling in 1969. Ms Broad says her bill would not change current practice (around 20,000 abortions per year), but would remove the threat of prosecution for women, their partners and doctors. The president of Right to Life Australia, Margaret Tighe, has spoken ardently against the bill, calling it the most infamous piece of legislation to have appeared in the Victorian parliament, that would leave wild ducks better protected than unborn children. Ms Broad's bill has received support from the opposition leader, but has met unexpected resistance in her own party. She expressed confidence that it would pass through parliament, but it is expected to be defeated in the upper house. [LifeSite, 17 July]

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