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Welsh Government ignores 98% of respondents to their OWN consultation on free NI abortions

14 November 2018


The Welsh Government's announcement didn't even acknowledge the consultation.

Apparently they didn't count because they came from SPUC members.

Last week, the Welsh Government announced that it would be following England and Scotland in allowing women from Northern Ireland to access abortions in Wales free of charge. However, it has now emerged that the decision was made despite responses to the Welsh Government's own consultation on the matter being overwhelmingly negative.

Sham

In January/February 2018, the Welsh Government ran a consultation seeking " views on the proposal that Local Health Boards (LHBs) in Wales will provide access to termination of pregnancy (TOP) services to women from Northern Ireland (NI) on an equal footing with resident Welsh women."

However, the consultation process has been revealed to be a complete sham following the publication of the results. The summary of responses published by the Welsh Government states that of the 802 responses received, only 14 were in favour of the proposal. This means that 788 responses - 98.3% - opposed the move.

Moreover, the 14 responses in favour of providing free abortions to women from NI were from abortion providers such as BPAS and advocacy bodies such as the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign.

Any excuse to ignore

In contrast, the responses opposing the move came from individual members of the public, including many from NI. The summary states: "In total, 802 responses were received to the consultation. The majority of responses came from the pro-life group SPUC and their members, and a significant proportion of these responses came from individuals in NI."

Although SPUC members did not send a generic response (they were sent a briefing to aid personal submissions), the Welsh Government seem to have used this successful campaign as an excuse to ignore the results of the consultation. The summary says: "As noted above, the majority of the negative responses came from the pro-life group SPUC and their members. These responses all contained identical objections and they are therefore treated collectively." A selection of objections to the proposal are then listed and then dismissed. 

After three paragraphs detailing the positive responses from abortion supporting organisations, the document concludes: "Following this consultation, the Welsh Government plans to implement the provision as proposed."

Ignoring NI women

The consultation has been slammed for making a mockery of the democratic process and for ignoring the individual responses of women from Northern Ireland. 

Baroness O'Loan, the Former Police Ombudsman, said: "As a member of the community in Northern Ireland I am appalled the Welsh Government put out a quick press release on Friday saying they are going to provide free abortions to women resident in Northern Ireland if they travel to Wales, without acknowledging that they had conducted a public consultation on this highly controversial proposal, in response to which 98.3% of respondents said 'don't do it' to just 1.7% who said 'proceed'.

"To make matters much worse, the 98.3% of respondents embrace a significant number of women from Northern Ireland, those who will be impacted by the provision and whose views therefore matter the most.

"As someone also from a devolved jurisdiction, I am shocked that the Welsh Government has behaved in this way," she concluded. "I now call on the Welsh Government to urgently review its handling of this consultation and the decision it announced on Friday."

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