LONDON May 30, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A survey released on 29 May 2018 shows that 72% of Conservative Members of Parliament reject Westminster undermining devolution in order to appease calls from fellow MPs to impose abortion on demand in Northern Ireland. Only 9% of Conservative MPs surveyed said they would support the undermining of Ulster’s devolved Assembly.
In the survey, MPs were also asked whether the UK’s House of Commons should hold a free vote on the issue. Again 72% of Conservative MPs rejected such a call for a free vote with only 9% of Conservative MPs supporting it.
The survey reveals that any interference with devolution in Northern Ireland is deeply unpopular with Conservative MPs. This is especially important coming, as it does, at a key time for the Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Conservative Government which depends on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party in order to retain power.
The survey of Conservative MPs was carried out by ComRes, an opinion research agency with a particular interest in religious belief in the workplace. A total of 150 MPs were interviewed for the survey between 1st and 28th March 2018.
These survey results have been released following a statement from a spokesperson for the Prime Minister reiterating that the issue of abortion is a matter for the devolved Northern Ireland government: “It’s important to recognise that the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to their own process, which is run by locally elected politicians. Our focus is restoring a democratically accountable devolved government in Northern Ireland so that locally accountable politicians can make decisions on behalf of the public they represent.”
Prominent pro-life Conservative MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has said that challenging Northern Ireland's stance on abortion would be 'an issue of devolution'. He went on to add that such a move would set a precedent for a British parliament to unpick other devolution agreements which exist in other parts of the United Kingdom namely, Scotland and Wales.
The proposal to impose abortion on Northern Ireland, made over the weekend by some English MPs, comes at a fragile moment for the Northern Ireland’s Assembly. Since 26 January 2017, political divisions within Northern Ireland have lead to no Executive being formed. This push to impose laws on the Province comes at a time when there are wider concerns about how the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union will affect the Irish and its possible negative impact on the 20-year-old Good Friday Agreement which brought a measure of peace and stability to Northern Ireland.
Referring to the recent abortion referendum result south of the Irish border, DUP Assembly Member Jim Wells said: “We can't have a knee jerk reaction in Northern Ireland simply because the Irish Republic has taken this decision.” He has suggested that the DUP could use a “petition of concern” to block any change to abortion laws in Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, women from a number of groups have come together to speak out against calls to force abortion on the people of Northern Ireland. They published an open letter to Prime Minister May and all UK MPs. The letter stressed that abortion is a devolved issue and that is therefore for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives to decide on what the law regarding abortion in Northern Ireland should be.
Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter NI, said: “Across the UK this is the time for a better story around pregnancy crisis than assuming that abortion is what women want or need. We would ask that British MPs to respect the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives. We do not want the social model of Great Britain imposed on us. Progress isn’t the dehumanisation of our unborn children. Progress is recognising that there are at least two lives in existence in every pregnancy and beginning the conversation from the point that Both Lives Matter… Women and babies deserve better than abortion because both lives matter.”
The attempt to impose new laws on Northern Ireland is being led by Labour MP Stella Creasy. She is calling for a free vote on her planned amendment to the Domestic Violence Bill that would extend abortion to Northern Ireland. 160 MPs, including some senior Conservatives, are said to support the plan. Labour's Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti has said that the issue of abortion is a “test” for “self-identifying feminist” Theresa May.
These British attempts to undermine devolution in Northern Ireland are also seeing a backlash from within the Labour Party. Labour MP for North Tyneside, Mary Glindon, weighed into the debate saying: “The fact is that Northern Ireland, is a devolved administration and this remains a devolved issue that has to be decided by Stormont…The most important thing now is to get the Northern Ireland Assembly up and running again, for the people of Northern Ireland, and that is where, I believe, Labour MPs should be putting their efforts at this time.”