She was speaking after the Secretary of State laid regulations today that remove the need for the Department of Health to seek Executive Committee approval in relation to commissioning abortion services in Northern Ireland. This means the Department of Health will have no further barriers to commission and fund services.
Ms Lockhart said: “For the last two years we have stood shoulder to shoulder in trying to protect the vulnerable from Covid-19 and sustain life and yet this legislation will make Northern Ireland one of the most dangerous places in Europe to be a child in the womb - especially if that little baby has a disability,” she said.
Over 70% of respondents to the government consultation opposed liberalisation of abortion law in NI, she noted, and that when the Assembly was last sitting no consensus was reached on this issue.
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“It is incredible that simply because agreement has yet to be found on these highly emotive matters, that the Secretary of State takes upon himself to legislate his view upon the people of Northern Ireland.”
She added: “It is not lost on people that in their haste to facilitate abortion they will accelerate legislation through the Commons, yet in terms of accelerating legislation to remove the Irish Sea Border that would see a return of the devolved institutions, the Government adopts a more laissez-faire approach, with promises of intent for the future.”
TUV East Antrim spokesperson Norman Boyd said Mr Lewis’ abortionannouncement “illustrates that devolution is sham” and that there is “a great deal more reluctance to do anything of substance on the Protocol”.
He said, by contrast, the UK government has promised legislation on a range of issues which would be oppsed by unionists in an assembly - such as legacy proposals, Irish language and now abortion.
Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín said the “imposition” of abortion on NI by Westminster has been “undemocratic and in complete violation of the Good Friday Agreement”. He added: “This imposition was facilitated by both Sinn Féin and the SDLP. Many people have been shocked and disappointed by SF working hand in hand with Westminster in this circumvention of Irish democracy. They have binned 200 years of Republic ideals of Self Determination in doing so.”
SF, the SDLP, Alliance and UUP did not publish any statements on the issue.