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House Of Lords MPs Vote To Confirm NI Abortion Regulations

The House of Lords has overwhelmingly backed abortion regulations for Northern Ireland despite opposition by the Stormont Assembly.

MPs in the House of Lords have voted to confirm Northern Ireland’s abortion regulations with a majority of 253 votes to 136. 

This is the final parliamentary stage and means the regulations will continue to underpin services in Northern Ireland.

“It’s great to see another strong majority vote for abortion rights in Northern Ireland," said Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, responding to the vote.

"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 31 March, women have had the framework to access services in Northern Ireland – no one should be forced to travel far for healthcare anymore.

"Northern Ireland’s Department of Health must now commission these services as a matter of priority," she continued.

“The passing of these regulations doesn’t exempt the Northern Ireland Office from further responsibility. The Secretary of State must ensure these regulations apply in practice and that services are properly funded and accessible to all who need them.”

Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion laws – the strictest regime within the UK – were changed by MPs last year at a time when Stormont was collapsed.

However, the law changes – which also allowed for same-sex marriages – were threatened by the presence of the DUP and other unionist parties who triggered a recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly in an attempt to block the lifting of a near-ban on terminations.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party would “take every possible legal option open to us”, up to and including repeal, to try and prevent the legalisation of abortion. 

Earlier this month, the now-sitting Northern Irish assembly registered its opposition to the Westminster-led abortion access in Northern Ireland. 

READ: What Does The Same-Sex Marriage/Abortion Vote Mean For NI?

Under the law set out by the House of Lords, abortions are permitted at any time up to birth when there has been a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality or where the child is likely to suffer severe mental or physical impairment.

A majority of Stormont Assembly members voted to support a motion rejecting this "imposition" of abortion regulations by Westminster on June 2.

This triggered a vote which would have no impact on the law, but the DUP insisted it sent a message to the government highlighting the need for changes to the regulations.

The vote saw MPs vote overwhelmingly in favour of the regulations they had previously set out in October 2019 meaning that no further changes will be made to NI abortion legislation. 

Main image by @jfsfemsoc

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