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UK News

Thousands call for consultation before any changes made to Northern Ireland abortion law

The Prime Minister is facing critcism from many in Northern Ireland against the Government's plan to redraft the abortion clause in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill to remove legal protections, which they say will usher into Northern Ireland one of the most extreme abortion laws in Europe.

Last week, MPs voted by 332 to 99, a majority of 233, to implement a United Nations report that said the lack of abortion legislation was a violation of the human rights of women in Northern Ireland.

More than 10,000 signatures from people in Northern Ireland were collected in less than 48 hours over the weekend, as part of a letter to the Prime Minster supporting the Baroness O'Loan and Lord Eames amendment in the House of Lords.

The amendment seeks to make sure that the politicians and public of Northern Ireland are consulted before any changes are made to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland.

The group are calling on Theresa May to either pull the Bill, not allowing it to complete its remaining stage and become law, or ensure that the clause is only taken forward if the people of Northern Ireland are consulted and a majority of MLAs support the introduction of any change to abortion law.

Northern Irish peer Baroness O'Loan said: "I am shocked to see that the Government has dropped their long-standing policy of neutrality on abortion and respect for devolution. In 2016 the Northern Assembly voted by a clear majority against changing the abortion law.

"One-hundred percent of Northern Ireland MPs who have taken their seats in Westminster voted against the amendment introduced by Stella Creasy. None of the MPs who voted for it represent constituencies in Northern Ireland.

"These and other matters form part of the current negotiations being conducted by the Government in an attempt to restore the Northern Irish Assembly - something the people of Northern Ireland are crying out for. To do this at this time is to imperil the future of those talks."

Carla Lockhart, Democratic Unionist Party MLA for Upper Bann said: "The amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill on abortion, passed last week in the commons, are deeply troubling. I am encouraged that so many peers, MPs and citizens of Northern Ireland have been motivated to action by this letter. I hope that these amendments are dropped from the bill or at the very least the people and politicians of Northern Ireland are consulted before any far-reaching changes are made."

Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter said: "There is no doubt that this is a critical moment when it comes to the future of the law on abortion in Northern Ireland. We are incredibly encouraged by the number of people who live and work here, who have signed their names to this letter."

Peter Lynas, Director of Evangelical Alliance NI, Peter Lynas said: "Abortion is one of the most sensitive political, moral and social issues of our time, especially in Northern Ireland where it is a devolved matter.

"We object strongly to what happened last week, both in terms of the process and the substance of the motions passed. We know that many churches brought this issue to the attention of their congregations yesterday. The result is that people from right across the Christian denominations and those of no faith have been motivated by a deep desire to see both women and unborn children protected.

"There is a better more human story being told in Northern Ireland which means that over 100,000 people are alive today because the 1967 Abortion Act was not brought in here. We and many others will continue to tell it."

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