NI: Leaked Labour manifesto promises abortion rights for Northern Ireland women

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

A leaked draft of Labour’s general election manifesto includes a commitment to extending abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland.

Details from the draft document, which is set to be approved by Labour’s governing executive today, were published by The Telegraph last night.

A full PDF of the draft text has been published by BBC News.

In its section on women, the document states: “Labour will continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion – and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.”

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK where abortions are illegal except in a narrow set of circumstances.

The Abortion Act 1967, which liberalised abortion law in Great Britain, does not extend to Northern Ireland.

The manifesto pledge could bring a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn into sharp conflict with Northern Ireland political leaders.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has expressed her clear opposition to any extension of the Abortion Act 1967 and has resisted similar proposals in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The leaked manifesto also describes the Good Friday Agreement as “one of the greatest achievements of Labour in office”.

It adds: “Labour is committed to supporting Stormont and the full operation of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and working with all sides to deliver a more peaceful and prosperous country.”

Claire Bailey
Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, told Irish Legal News: “I am encouraged that the Labour Party has pledged action on the issue but I remain disappointed that both Westminster and our Assembly have continually failed women here.

“The Northern Ireland High Court ruled that our abortion legislation is in breach of minimum human rights standards back in 2015. Likewise, the UK Government have been repeatedly called on to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland by a series of international human rights bodies.

“This means that there is a legal responsibility for the Westminster government to act to ensure that they are human rights compliant in all areas of the United Kingdom.”

She added: “Abortion law reform and the decriminalisation of abortion will feature in the Green Party manifesto which we will publish later this month.”

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