On Tuesday, MPs in Westminster voted to give Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, sweeping new powers to impose the rollout of abortion access on Northern Ireland.
The new powers enable the Secretary of State to force the Stormont Executive to introduce abortion provision across Northern Ireland and to supervise it happening.
Several members of parliament challenged the move and pointed out before the vote that the people of Northern Ireland vehemently oppose the imposition of abortion from Westminster.
In her contribution to the debate, Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge said that “abortion is a devolved issue, and the only legal or moral basis for the 2019 intervention by the UK Government was that there was no sitting Northern Ireland Assembly at that time.”
She continued: “As we are all aware, that is no longer the case, and the Assembly has shown itself to be perfectly competent in developing its own legislation. There is no longer any justification for the UK Government to enforce the regulations. Pressing ahead, as we are doing today, is a breach of the Belfast agreement and weakens the trust and respect upon which devolution is founded…. [T]he Northern Ireland Assembly opposes the regulations. When the people of Northern Ireland were consulted on the regulations last year, 80% rejected them”.
Carla Lockhart, the MP from Upper Bann said: “The regulations are not just based on the false premise that they are a requirement of international law… [T]he case for the vote on 9 July 2019 was greatly strengthened by a claim that it is now clear was not true”.
“The CEDAW convention, which is international law and is supposed to define the terms of reference of the CEDAW committee, does not even mention abortion, let alone define a right to it. Moreover, the CEDAW committee is not a judicial body, and it does not have standing to read in a right to abortion, as demonstrated by Professor Mark Hill, QC”.
She continued, “I want pathways for those women to choose life…I hear so little about the unborn. I hear so little about the baby being aborted. Unfortunately, those little babies do not have a voice… I call on [all Members] to press the Government to propose the repeal of section 9, and leave the issue with democratically elected politicians in Northern Ireland”.
The vote to give additional powers to the Secretary of State to impose abortion on Norther Ireland passed by 431 votes to 89. Sinn Féin and the leadership of the SDLP looked on and refused to robustly challenge this latest outrageous move by Boris Johnson’s government.