Newly-elected DUP MP Carla Lockhart has railed against radical changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws in her maiden speech to the House of Commons this week.
Lockhart told Westminster MPs that the “extreme” liberalisation of abortion had been “foisted on people in Northern Ireland”.
Until October 22 last year, abortion in Northern Ireland was permitted only in cases of danger to the mother’s life or where there was a serious risk to her physical or mental health.
In the absence of a sitting Assembly, however, Westminister passed legislation decriminalising abortion and making terminations possible up to the point of viability.
The legal framework is still being worked out in the interim period before the first terminations under the changed laws are permitted to take place from the end of March.
During the debate on Wednesday, Northern Ireland minister Robin Walker said that the Government was “working towards the laying of regulations for a new legal framework” to come into effect by March 31.
Addressing the Commons, Lockhart, the new MP for Upper Bann said: “Abortion was, and should be, a devolved matter, yet this House has imposed on Northern Ireland the most extreme measures of abortion anywhere across Europe.
“In Northern Ireland, abortion on request for any reason will be legalised to the point at which a baby is ‘capable of being born alive’.”
She added that the DUP was determined to repeal the legislation “with immediate effect and allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate, discuss and evidence-gather on this emotive issue”.
“The DUP is a pro-life party, but this actually crosses traditional boundaries and there is widespread cross-community support across Northern Ireland,” she said.
“We have an evolving political landscape, and I say let the people of Northern Ireland have their say on this matter.”
Other MPs speaking during the debate aired similar concerns over the changes.
Jim Shannon, DUP MP, said the decriminalisation of abortion was “not what we need” in Northern Ireland.
“The people of Northern Ireland do not want us to do this,” he said.
“Some 20,000 people— rich and poor, Protestant and Catholic, young and old—stood together at Stormont, rising above political opinion, religious divide and any other consideration, to beg this place not to do this awful thing.
“Yes, protect women, yes, find a better way, but abortion on demand taking place every two minutes night and day, as on the mainland, is not what we need in Northern Ireland.
“Some 100,000 people live today because of the legislation in Northern Ireland. We do not have to introduce this radical change.”
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said: “Law change has been imposed on Northern Ireland by a coalition of MPs representing seats in England, Scotland and Wales. I think that is inappropriate and wrong.”
Phillip Lynn, SPUC Northern Ireland’s Development Officer, welcomed the contribution of pro-life MPs to Wednesday’s debate.
“It was encouraging to now see pro-life politicians from across the political spectrum speak up for the rights of the unborn child and the devolved powers of Northern Ireland,” he said.
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