· Move to extend abortion provision to North withdrawn
DAN KEENAN, Northern News Editor, The Irish Times.
AN AMENDMENT to controversial legislation aimed at extending abortion provision to Northern Ireland has been withdrawn at Westminster.
Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris had tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently being debated in the Commons.
The measure would have extended the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland where there is no legislative provision for abortion.
The withdrawal of the amendment was welcomed yesterday by the Association of Catholic Lawyers of Ireland. Barrister Johanna Higgins said: “I am delighted to see that the pro-abortion lobby in Westminster has backed off from its threat to try and get the Abortion Act extended to the North of Ireland, which would have meant, among other things, the legalisation of abortion to full term for disabled babies.”
All four main political parties in Stormont, at the request of the all-party Pro-Life Group, co-signed a letter which was sent to all Westminster politicians opposing plans to extend the Abortion Act.
On Friday, the leaders of the four main churches in Ireland wrote to each Westminster MP calling for the Northern Ireland Assembly to be given primacy on the question of abortion legislation.
There is a strong anti-abortion majority at Stormont.
Leading anti-abortion groups also co-signed a letter which was sent to all politicians in Britain opposing the plans to extend the Act.
The move was criticised by the Alliance For Change, a pressure group seeking abortion legislation for Northern Ireland; by the Family Planning Association and by the editorially independent Church of Ireland Gazette. It argued that church leaders should not press legislators on how to vote on any issue.