NI: Mixed reception to Labour pledge on abortion

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Labour’s leaked manifesto pledge to extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland has received a mixed reception on this side of the Irish Sea.

As reported in Irish Legal News yesterday, the document’s section on women 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.”

Clare Bailey, deputy leader of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, told Irish Legal News that the move was necessary to satisfy the UK’s international human rights obligations.

Ms Bailey said: “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.”

However, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said the commitment to “impose the Abortion Act on Northern Ireland” was incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement.

Liam Gibson, SPUC’s Northern Ireland development officer, said: “We are outraged but so should every single person in Northern Ireland by this high handed interference. We have the legal and constitutional right to make our own laws on issues such as abortion, which is a matter for the devolved Assembly in Stormont.

“If the Labour Party were to carry out its threat to override the democratic settlement in the Province in order to push its own extremist and unpopular abortion agenda, it would severely damage the credibility of the political process and make the existence of the Assembly meaningless.”

The DUP and Sinn Féin, Northern Ireland’s two largest political parties, did not respond to a request for comment.

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