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Defending life
from conception to natural death


Prime Minister opposes radical bill to decriminalise abortion and impose it on Northern Ireland

22 November 2018



Prime Minister Theresa May has backed concerns raised by pro-life campaigners and told of her opposition to proposals which would decriminalise abortion.

And the Prime Minister has strongly criticised measures outlined in a Ten Minute Rule Bill which would also involve Westminster imposing abortion on Northern Ireland where it is a devolved matter and only permitted under severe restrictions.

Her concerns have been made public just hours after Labour MP Diana Johnson published her Abortion Bill which contains alarming proposals which would usher in a radical pro-abortion regime allowing abortion for any reason until 24 weeks of pregnancy. It would also permit the concealment of a dead baby whether the child had died before or after birth.

Mrs May’s views are expressed in a candid letter to a concerned constituent who is a member of the world’s oldest pro-life group, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

The constituent is actively involved in counselling women seeking help after undergoing the trauma of abortion and wrote to the PM in her capacity as MP for Maidenhead detailing concerns about the Bill.

The Bill seeks to repeal key sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA) under which abortion remains a criminal offence. The 1967 Abortion Act set limits under which an abortions could be performed. But it does not apply to Northern Ireland where OAPA is the primary legislation governing abortion.

Repealing the 1861 provisions would effectively decriminalise abortion not only in England and Wales but also Northern Ireland. OAPA does not cover Scotland.

In her letter to the constituent who wishes to remain anonymous, Mrs May states:

“I recognise that abortion is a highly sensitive issue.

“I do have concerns about the points raised in Diana Johnson’s Ten Minute Rule Bill. I do not support the repealing of sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 for several reasons.

“Primarily, repealing those two sections does not solve the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland, as without any new provisions it offers no safeguards for women and would impact on England and Wales, as well as Northern Ireland.”

She continues: “The 1967 Abortion Act provides defences against the criminal law  offences in the 1861 Act.

“If these offences were removed then abortion would in effect be decriminalised and no legal framework would be in place, including no gestational time limits.
“A new legal framework would be needed to replace those provisions, which is rightly a devolved matter which locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland should have the opportunity to debate and consider.

“The measures in the Bill also go a lot further than the current debate in Northern Ireland, so it is important legislation is not imposed on Northern Ireland and we allow local politicians the opportunity to represent the views of the people of Northern Ireland.  It is the Government’s priority to restore devolved government at the earliest opportunity.”

The letter has been welcomed by SPUC which, in June,  presented a petition of over 10,000 handwritten signatures from people in England and Wales calling on the Prime Minister  not to give any parliamentary support to decriminalising abortion.

Antonia Tully, SPUC’s campaigns director, said: “This is our priority campaign and it is heartening that Mrs May has listened to our views and backed our position.

“Mrs May has highlighted the key issue of women’s health. Decriminalising abortion would leave women at greater risk.

“If abortion is no longer governed by the criminal law we could easily develop a ‘backstreet abortion’ culture.

“Decriminalising abortion would leave every unborn baby and expectant mother in England, Wales and  Northern Ireland with no legal protection against abortion and utterly at the mercy of the unscrupulous abortion industry.

“Our fear is that the most vulnerable women will be most at risk. The abortion advocates would abandon abused, trafficked and desperate women to those who would seek to exploit them.  We are saying that these women need care and compassion, not to be forced by violent partners to take abortion pills purchased online.”

SPUC’s deputy chief executive John Deighan said: “The proposed  Bill reveals the truly harsh nature of the abortion lobby. Presently the law on abortion includes provision to ensure that abortions cannot be covered up by concealing the body of the dead baby. It beggars belief that such a provision would be removed from the law, yet Diana Johnson aims to do just that.”

He continued: “The proposals are so extreme that they would create one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world, with an effective abortion free-for-all up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

“This is a Bill concocted by those so committed to furthering the dreadful business of abortion that they are willing to push aside any barrier whether it be democratic controls, the protection of the unborn or legal safeguards for vulnerable women in pregnancy.”

Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland officer said:

“The devolved governance of Northern Ireland is crucially important. We do not need and do not want politicians who are not accountable to the people here dictating to us about matters which have rightly been devolved to Stormont.

“Democratic accountability is central to the devolution settlement arising from the peace process. If MPs really care about peace and stability in Northern Ireland they cannot simply impose their will on us whenever it suits them. If they overturn our abortion laws then it would send the message that Westminster does not genuinely believe in devolution and the right of Northern Ireland to govern itself.

“This is yet another attempt to bully Northern Ireland on abortion.  The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 has saved the lives of 100,000 babies in the Province and cannot simply be dismissed as outdated.

"Abortion is not healthcare. It is an act of lethal violence directed at the unborn child and is never justified.

“The Bill is a calculated manoeuvre to draw in MPs who have no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland, into a debate aimed at imposing abortion on the Province.

“It also holds extreme dangers for every part of the UK. This shows the utter contempt of the abortion lobby for democratic structures and the rule of law.”

Contact us:

Antonia Tully, SPUC Campaign Director:
Tel: 020 7091 7091
Mob:  07470549022

John Deighan, SPUC Deputy CEO:
Tel: 020 7091 7091
Mob  07802 739265
Liam Gibson, SPUC NI Development Officer:
Tel:  +44 (0) 28 9077 8018
Mob: +44 (0) 79 8499 0688

Issued on behalf of SPUC by:
Tom Hamilton Communications
Tel: 0141 639 8355
Mob: 07836 603977

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