English MPs plot ambush to impose "one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world" on NI
22 October 2018
Diana Johnson (left) with other MPs supporting decriminalisation.
"No-one should be under any illusion as the extreme nature of this Bill."
English MPs will this week seek to impose what a leading legal expert has called a "radically permissive" abortion regime on Northern Ireland - despite polling showing that a majority of people from the Province think that the issue should not be decided by Westminster politicians.
Tomorrow, Diana Johnson, the Labour MP for Hull North, will move her ten minute rule bill on decriminalising abortion across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also emerged over the weekend that Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn have tabled amendments calling for abortion and same-sex marriage to a Northern Ireland bill being debated on Wednesday. The two English MPs have put down an amendment to the bill - which is aimed at giving officials greater powers in the absence of a Stormont assembly- asking Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary, to "make provision" for repealing the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which would decriminalise abortion.
Five reasons why abortion should not be decriminalised
The parliamentary manoeuvres, which the Guardian describes as an "ambush", come as polling shows that voters in Northern Ireland insist that abortion must be decided by local politicians. A ComRes survey commissioned by SPUC found that 64 per cent supported the view that any decision on abortion legislation should be taken by Northern Ireland politicians and not by Westminster. Furthermore, when asked if it would undermine the devolution settlement if MPs in Westminster were to overrule the views of Northern Ireland’s elected representatives because they held a different view on abortion law, 47 per cent agreed while just 30 per cent disagreed.
Abortion free for all
The extreme nature of the proposals have also been revealed after a legal expert analysed the text of Diana Johnson's bill, which briefly appeared on the website backing the decriminalisation campaign. Professor John Keown, of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, said that the bill, "would, if enacted, make the law regulating abortion radically more permissive, especially but by no means only in relation to abortion up to the end of the 24th week of pregnancy."
One clause of the draft bill provides that no offence is committed by a woman who terminates her own pregnancy, even after the 24th week. "A woman could, therefore, procure her own abortion days before natural birth, and even kill the child during delivery." Prof Keown also concluded that the bill would make it very difficult to prosecute a doctor who performed a late term abortion, as he could argue that he believed "in good faith" that the pregnancy had not exceeded the 24th week.
"In short, no-one should be under any illusion as the extreme nature of this Bill," he concluded. "If enacted, it would create one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world, which it would not be unreasonable to describe as tantamount to an abortion free-for-all, at least until the end of the 24th week."
Diana Johnson's Ten Minute Rule bill on decriminalising abortion will be debated tomorrow, Tuesday 23 October. Please email your MP asking them to vote against this extreme bill.
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