A group campaigning for the rights of women and their unborn children yesterday urged MPs in England, Wales and Scotland to keep their hands off abortion law in Northern Ireland and leave decision-making to the nation’s citizens and their elected representatives.

The impassioned plea, which was made at a parliamentary briefing event, hosted by Fiona Bruce MP, comes just days before Diana Johnson MP will present to parliament a ten-minute rule bill regarding her proposed change to abortion law, and amid the release of a new poll which revealed that the majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want MPs outside their jurisdiction to change current legislation.

On Tuesday, the MP for Kingston upon Hull North is expected to push MPs to vote on her Standing Order No. 23 to decriminalise abortion in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which those who are against the amendments fear will remove current legal safeguards around abortion in England and Wales and help pave the way for radical changes to abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, where abortion is prohibited under most circumstances.

Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter, said: We are facing a scenario whereby our law will be repealed with no democratic mandate from the people of Northern Ireland. That would leave us with potentially no remaining legislation and no Executive to introduce regulation. This is a reckless and irresponsible attempt to change our law and would significantly weaken protections for women and children. Instead, we want to see better for women and families, such as services and support to enable women facing pregnancy crises to choose life. 


In recent months the campaign to decriminalise abortion has hastened in the UK. A small number of tragic cases in Northern Ireland, of women who have been told that their baby has a serious and life-limited foetal disorder, are being used as a trojan horse to push through very extreme pro-abortion laws. Such cases account for less than two per cent of all abortions in Great Britain, where abortion has become so normalised that for every four people born, one will have been aborted, and more than 98 per cent of these are healthy babies. The campaign to decriminalise abortion is not about these hard cases’; it’s about providing abortion for any reason, potentially up to birth, based on choice alone.”

During the briefing, the results of a ComRes poll, which was carried out earlier this month, were released and revealed that 64 per cent of respondents think any decisions concerning Northern Ireland’s abortion law should be made by the nation’s administration. The poll found that women and 18 to 30 year olds particularly support this view, with 66 and 70 per cent, respectively, having voted this way. 

Mrs McAvoy stressed: Sixty-six per cent of women in Northern Ireland believe that any decision about abortion legislation should only be made by the people of Northern Ireland and their chosen electives. This is a sensitive political issue in a sensitive political moment and it is a devolved matter; it’s not the time to be politicking. In the months ahead, we appeal to ministers to consider the lives, including Northern Ireland lives, that you may hold in your hands.” 

Marion Woods, a spokesperson for Life Northern Ireland, a pregnancy care charity which established Both Lives Matter alongside CARE, the Evangelical Alliance and others, echoed Mrs McAvoy’s call and added: We have seen and experienced first-hand that in the majority of cases, it’s not the pregnancy but the woman’s external circumstances that is the crisis, so we need more statuary services for women – focused pathways of care. I urge the government, therefore, to stand with women rather than pour more money into abortion.” 

Diana Johnson MP did not attend the briefing, but reports outlining her position say she has argued that the law was unfair and inappropriate in an age when women can and will access abortion pills by post because they want to be able to terminate their pregnancy in the privacy of their own home.

Visit Both Lives Matter’s website for more on the ComRes survey and responses from Dawn McAvoy, Marian Woods, and Fiona Bruce MP.

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash.