Minister: abortion in NI is a devolved responsibility

5th Sep 2018 - James Mildred

Today, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley confirmed that matters of law and policy on abortion in Northern Ireland remain the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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Abortion is a devolved matter

Ms Bradley was responding to a question from Fiona Bruce MP who asked the Minister whether questions over the legality of taking the second abortion pill at home during medical abortions are a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly

In her reply, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could not have been clearer: “Yes, Mr Speaker I can confirm that. Abortion is a devolved matter in Northern Ireland and this means it is only right that questions of law and policy in Northern Ireland, including the legality of any medicines are decided on by a devolved government in Northern Ireland.”

House of Lords

The Government also repeated the same line when a question was raised in the House of Lords today. Lord Duncan was speaking on behalf of the British Government and replying to a question from Baroness Thornton. He said: 

"Abortion law has been a devolved matter in Northern Ireland since devolution was established in 1999. The Government recognise that this is a sensitive issue and that views are strongly held by both sides. Any reform in Northern Ireland is rightly one for a restored Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to debate and to discuss and ultimately to decide what policy and laws are right for the people of Northern Ireland."

Abortion pill at home

The question comes in the context of a recent decision by the UK Government to allow the second abortion pill – misoprostol – to be taken at home, rather than under proper medical supervision in an NHS hospital or approved clinic.

This decision was made without any parliamentary scrutiny or consultation, despite the wider safety and ethical concerns that have been raised.

Undermining devolution

Pro-abortion campaigners have sought to undermine devolution in Northern Ireland by calling for MPs at Westminster to impose changes to NI’s abortion law.

CARE however has warned that such a move would fundamentally undermine the principle of devolution in Northern Ireland.

Unlike England, Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland never adopted the 1967 Abortion Act. Abortion is only legal in limited cases where the mother’s life is deemed to be a serious risk.

Find out more

Read this excellent article by Philippa Taylor of the CMF: Abortion Pills: simple and safe or dangerous and damaging? 

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