The UK Government has acted “appallingly” by offering free abortions in Great Britain for women from Northern Ireland, Jim Allister has said.
The TUV leader was commenting after the new policy was approved to avoid a Commons’ revolt against the government’s legislative programme for the next two years as set out in the Queen’s Speech.
More than 50 MPs were expected to back a Labour-led amendment, calling for free abortion services to be extended, leaving the government facing an embarrassing defeat.
Abortion laws are much stricter in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK – with terminations only allowed if the woman’s life is deemed to be at risk or there a serious risk to her mental health. Anyone wishing to avail of the services in GB has had to do so at their own expense.
Mr Allister branded the government decision “high handed” and said: “The extension of the 1967 Abortion Act – which has seen over eight million unborn denied the right to life – to Northern Ireland has long been opposed across the local community.
“Yet, appallingly, the government at a stroke has facilitated its reach to our shores by offering its services free to Northern Ireland women.”
Mr Allister called on the DUP to explain “with absolute clarity” what discussion the party had with the government prior to the new policy being announced.
“This back door circumvention of Northern Ireland’s settled rejection of the 1967 Act was high handed and deplorable,” Mr Allister added.
A DUP spokesman said that the co-ordination committee involving the DUP and Conservatives “is to be established immediately following the passage of the Queens Speech”.
He added: “The DUP had no involvement in the decision made on Thursday by the government. We had committed to oppose the Stella Creasey amendment and our opposition to the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland has been consistent and clear. This decision will not alter our view on this important issue.”
The spokesman also said the party noted that the UK’s Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening, “explicitly states that her decision does not change Northern Ireland’s abortion laws”.
David Smyth of the Evangelical Alliance said: “This announcement does not help or support women, their unborn child or their family.
“Again we see an irony when ‘equality’ and ‘progress’ for women is measured and seen to be achieved through the increased ability to end the life of their children. This is a small and sad vision, one which we call out and challenge. We see things differently,” he said.
“Progress happens when we stop linking women’s rights to the destruction of unborn human life. Compassion, freedom and equality are not found in increased abortion but in better services for women and their families including the unborn child. It’s time to re-humanise the conversation.”