New regulations governing abortion in Northern Ireland have been approved in a final Westminster vote. The latest provisions, which allow for terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to birth in the case of severe non-fatal disability, were voted through by 253 to 177. The new laws had come into force on 31st March 2020 following a period of consultation but required a final ratifying vote from Parliament.
The regulations were crafted last year at a time when Northern Ireland's power-sharing devolved government had collapsed. Abortion had previously been outlawed in Northern Ireland on account of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945.
DUP MP and pro-life advocate, Carla Lockhart, was horrified by the result, calling it "undoubtedly one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland's history."
"The will of the people of Northern Ireland has been ignored. The will of the Northern Ireland Assembly has been ignored.
"It is now up to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to change these regulations and bring them into line with public thinking on abortion here. It will now be for MLAs to act without delay to protect the pre-born child."
Posting to Twitter, Lockhart wrote: "Sadly Westminster have voted to pass the most liberal abortion laws on the people of Northern Ireland. This was, and should always have remained a devolved matter. I thank those 136 parliamentarians who voted for life. The unborn babies of Northern Ireland deserve better."
Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaign manager, Grainne Teggart, welcomed the approval.
She said: "It's great to see another strong majority vote for abortion rights in Northern Ireland. After so long, it's right that we finally leave behind the shackles of our past - this is what women and girls here deserve.
"Since March 31, women have had the right to access services in Northern Ireland - no one should be forced to travel far for healthcare any more. Northern Ireland's Department of Health must now commission these services as a matter of priority."