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Thu, 18 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
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Labour MPs plot double-pronged attack on Northern Ireland abortion ban

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

Labour MPs are preparing to launch a double bid to change the restrictive abortion laws in Northern Ireland this week in a move set to pile pressure on Theresa May.


Hull North MP Diana Johnson will propose legislation to repeal Victorian-era rules, while colleagues Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy will try to tweak a Government bill.

The moves ramp up the tension on the Government since the DUP - which props up Theresa May in her minority administration - is vehemently anti-abortion.

Ms Johnson will table a backbench bill on Tuesday calling for the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which criminalised any woman seeking an abortion, to be repealed.

The ten minute rule bill could give MPs the first chance to vote on the issue since a referendum in the Republic of Ireland overturned a ban on abortion in May this year.

There is no chance it will become law despite having won support from a clutch of Tory MPs, as the Government will not give it parliamentary time, but Ms Johnson hopes it will pressure the Prime Minister to act.

The MP told the Press Association: “It never seems to have been the right time to address the inequality in Northern Ireland, until now.

“The Irish abortion referendum has made the difference north and south of the border very stark.

“The 1861 Act is more than 150 years old – it is the oldest healthcare regulation in the country.

“Why should it be the case women, who could go to jail for life for seeking an abortion, could get a harsher sentence than her abuser or rapist?”

The other MPs have tabled an amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill, calling on Secretary of State Karen Bradley to “make provision” for repealing the law - but the amendment might not be selected for a vote.

A spokesperson for the UK government said: “This legislation is required to provide the Northern Ireland civil service with the certainty and clarity they need to continue to deliver public services in Northern Ireland.

"Amendments will be considered by the Commons in the normal way.”

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