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Leaked Manifesto: Labour will "extend abortion to Northern Ireland"

11 May 2017

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn voted for Diana Johnson's bill to decriminalise abortion.

A leaked copy of the Labour Party's general election manifesto reveals that the party plans to introduce abortion to Northern Ireland.

The document, which was leaked to several newspapers today and uploaded online, says "Labour will continue to ensure a woman's right to choose a safe, legal abortion - and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland."

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A devolved matter

The 1967 Abortion Act, which legislated for abortion in England, Wales and Scotland was never extended to Northern Ireland, and the matter is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont. The Labour Party has not clarified whether it would implement the change during a period of direct rule, or whether it would impose it on a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly. The inconclusive result of the Stormont elections makes a return to direct rule a possibility. 

Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland Development officer explains: "We have the legal and constitutional right to make our own laws on issues such as abortion, which is a matter for the devolved Assembly in Stormont."

Outrageous interference

In a press release, he said: "The decision by the Labour Party to include in its election manifesto a commitment to impose the Abortion Act on Northern Ireland demonstrates a shocking level of utter contempt for the people of the Province and the devolved institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement. We are outraged but so should every single person in Northern Ireland by this highhanded interference."

He went on to say: "In February 2016 members of the Assembly voted to maintain Northern Ireland's current protection for children before birth. All the parties at Westminster should respect that decision. If the Labour Party were to carry out its threat to override the democratic settlement in the Province in order to push its own extremist and unpopular abortion agenda, it would severely damage the credibility of the political process and make the existence of the Assembly meaningless."

In January 2017 a leading economist estimated at least 100,000 people - men, women and children - are alive today in Northern Ireland who would not have been alive if the Province had the same rate of abortions as Scotland has had since the late 1960s. 

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