Any bid by Westminster to impose abortion on Northern Ireland would deal a devastating blow to the devolution settlement, according to a new opinion poll.
And voters in the Province insist that all decisions on the controversial issue must be made by Stormont alone.
The poll results have been revealed as the House of Commons prepares to consider a Bill next week which could legalise abortion in Northern Ireland and encourage women to self-abort and conceal the bodies of their aborted babies.
Labour MP Diana Johnson will lodge a Ten Minute Rule Bill early next week which would decriminalise abortion up to 24 weeks in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But the move does not have public support, according to the opinion poll carried out on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, SPUC, the world’s oldest pro-life organisation.
The ComRes survey quizzed 1013 Northern Ireland voters and more than half were opposed to Westminster imposing its will on Northern Ireland.
Asked if It was right that MPs from outside Northern Ireland should determine whether or not to remove all remaining legal protections from the unborn up to 24 weeks gestation – 53 per cent were opposed and only 28 per cent were in favour.
And voters also believe that interference from outwith Northern Ireland’s own political structures will undermine the devolution settlement which has been a crucial outcome of the peace process.
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.
Overall, the poll revealed that 64 per cent supported the view that any decision on abortion legislation should be taken by Northern Ireland politicians and not by Westminster.
In response to the statement: “Changing the law on this issue should be a decision for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives and not for MPs in other parts of the UK” - 64% agreed and 23% disagreed.
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. Abortion is an emotive issue and one that elicits strong opinions. That makes it even more important that it is addressed by our own elected representatives.
“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.”
John Deighan, deputy CEO of SPUC said:
“The poll demonstrates solid support among Northern Ireland voters to have their own political representatives examine the issue of abortion. The polling questions revealed a clear position on where the issue of abortion should be dealt with.”
Mr Deighan said that the details contained in Diana Johnson’s Bill include alarming proposals would ride roughshod over devolution.
The Bill envisages permitting women to self-abort and conceal the bodies of their aborted babies.
Mr Deighan said:
“A copy of the Bill made available by its supporters reveals the truly harsh nature of the abortion lobby (LINK ATTACHED). 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.
“In practise, her proposals will incentivise women in Northern Ireland to procure their own miscarriages without medical assistance after 24 weeks.”
He continued: “The bill also threatens to put women’s lives at risk. It proposes that where a woman is given a substance, supposedly to procure an abortion, but which leads to her death, the criminal law response is diminished because manslaughter will no longer be available to prosecutors.
“This Bill would repeal a section of the Offences Against the Person Act which states:
‘If any woman shall be delivered of a child, every person who shall, by any secret disposition of the dead body of the said child, whether such child died before, at, or after its birth, endeavour to conceal the birth thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years.’
“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.”
Notes to editors:
- ComRes interviewed 1013 adults in Northern Ireland online between the October 8-15 2018. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all adults in Northern Ireland aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
- Diana Johnson releases text of abortion bill
For more information, please contact Liam Gibson, SPUC’s NI development officer on:
- Tel: +44 (0) 28 9077 8018
- Mob: +44 (0) 79 8499 0688
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org