Labour Manifesto Promises to Extend Abortion Law to Northern Ireland
The British Labour party plans to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland if it is successful in June’s general election. The party’s manifesto states that Labour would “continue to ensure a woman’s right to choose a safe, legal abortion—and we will work with the Assembly to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland.” An earlier draft of the manifesto simply stated that the party would legislate, without any reference to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The 1967 Abortion Act, which legalised the practice in Britain, never applied to Northern Ireland, which has its own, much more restrictive, law. The matter is devolved to the Assembly in Stormont, however with the future of the power-sharing deal currently uncertain, there is a chance Westminster could reassume direct rule.
The Labour Party has yet to clarify whether it would implement the change during a period of direct rule, or whether it would be prepared to impose it on a sitting Northern Ireland Assembly. Previous attempts by Westminster politicians to force abortion on Northern Ireland have ended in failure, with a 2008 proposal blocked by then Leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman over fears it could lead to the House of Lords challenging the existing law in England and Wales.
According to the BBC, there were 16 abortions in Northern Ireland in 2014/15, compared to 184,571 in England and Wales.
Catholic Herald. May 11. The Labour Party. May 16.