Westminster to examine NI’s abortion laws

Tory Basingstoke MP Maria Miller will chair the Westminster committee inquiry into NI abortion arrangements
Tory Basingstoke MP Maria Miller will chair the Westminster committee inquiry into NI abortion arrangements

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 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 move was welcomed by Amnesty International, which is campaigning for reform, however Christian lobby group CARE expressed concern that none of the MPs were from Northern Ireland - and that the government has repeatedly promised that abortion in NI should be dealt with by a restored devolved Assembly.

The MPs on the committee are Chair Maria Miller (Conservative), Tonia Antoniazzi (Labour), Sarah Champion (Labour), Angela Crawley (SNP), Philip Davies MP (Conservative), Vicky Ford (Conservative), Kirstene Hair (Conservative), Eddie Hughes (Conservative), Jess Phillips MP (Labour), Gavin Shuker (Labour) and Tulip Siddiq (Labour).