By a vote of 46-40, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted Tuesday “in favor of a motion rejecting the ‘imposition’ of abortion legislation by the Westminster parliament,” The Catholic News Agency [CNA] reported. “The Abortion Regulations 2020, imposed by the British Parliament during a governmental crisis in Northern Ireland, permits the unrestricted killing of unborn babies until the 14th week of pregnancy and until birth if the child is suspected of having a fetal anomaly, such as Down syndrome.
Previously, abortion was strictly limited to case where the “mother’s life was at risk or if there was risk of long-term or permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health,” according to the CNA.
While non-binding, “the vote will send a signal to MPs in Westminster who are due to vote on the regulations and give a boost to those campaigning for abortion laws to be determined by the Northern Ireland Assembly,” the CNA reported.
The new law took effect March 31. According to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), 129 unborn babies were killed in Northern Ireland between March 31 and May 22.
Heidi Crowter illustrated the power of a single determined advocate. The 24-year-old woman, who has Down syndrome, is a tireless advocate for disability rights.
Assembly members voted in favor of a motion which read: “That this Assembly welcomes the important intervention of disability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the imposition of abortion legislation that extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down’s syndrome.”
On Monday, the day before the vote, the Catholics bishops of Northern Ireland urged members to reject the new abortion regulations, which they said were imposed “without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.” In their June 1 letter to legislators, the bishops wrote, “Politicians and all people of good will, who recognize the extreme nature of the Regulations, should not meekly acquiesce to their promulgation.”
“This is a very welcome outcome and it’s good to see the Northern Ireland Assembly sending such a clear message that abortion to birth for non-fatal disabilities and Down’s syndrome is not acceptable,” said Nola Leach, chief executive of the pro-life group CARE NI.
“The Northern Ireland Assembly has effectively voted against the imposition of extreme abortion legislation and the UK Government must now withdraw the Regulations.
“It cannot ask the Westminster Parliament to pass regulations on a devolved matter when the Assembly has not only been restored but also voted to indicate that it does not support the Regulations.
“It would also involve asking MPs and Peers to vote for a form of disability discrimination which belongs not only to another century but another millennium.
“If the Government proceeds that then MPs and Peers must vote to reject these Regulations.
“We must remember that laws send social signals and we believe the regulations proposed by Westminster will harm, not help, women and babies across Northern Ireland.”