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Thursday, 20 September 2018

Westminster inquiry to examine whether UK Government has role in NI abortion law

Written by David Young

A new Westminster inquiry is to examine whether the Government has a responsibility to reform abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

The Women and Equalities Committee will also assess whether the contentious issue should only be one for devolved ministers to determine.

Abortions in Northern Ireland are illegal in all but exceptional medical and mental health circumstances.

The Government has resisted calls to step in to legislate for reform in the wake of a recent Supreme Court judgment that found the current legal framework incompatible with human rights laws.

In June, a majority of Supreme Court judges said the ban on terminations in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality needed "radical reconsideration".

The Commons committee inquiry will examine how the prohibition affects local women and will also canvass the views of medical and legal professionals.

The committee said it wanted to consult widely during its probe and hear views from across the spectrum in Northern Ireland.

Committee chairman Maria Miller (pictured) said the inquiry was in part prompted by concerns raised about the current situation by the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

"The Women and Equalities Select Committee has decided to hold a formal inquiry into abortion law in Northern Ireland following renewed concerns raised by CEDAW committee about restricted access and the UK Supreme Court ruling in June," she said.

"The committee is seeking evidence from the people of Northern Ireland and organisations involved to inform this inquiry."

The move was welcomed by Amnesty International, which is campaigning for reform.

Grainne Teggart from Amnesty said: "This inquiry represents a welcome opportunity for change and will put a firm spotlight on the UK Government's obligations to women in Northern Ireland.

"Westminster is ultimately responsible for ensuring that women's right to abortion is upheld."

While pro-choice campaigners are demanding that the Government steps in amid the ongoing powersharing impasse at Stormont, anti-abortion activists insist the matter should only be determined by Northern Ireland politicians.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.