Stormont must act on abortion reform ‘or Westminster will’

The equalities minister has urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to take action to liberalise abortion law or risk Westminster stepping in.

After a highly charged debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Penny Mordaunt tweeted that the message from Westminster MPs to Northern Ireland’s leaders on decriminalising abortion was, “if you don’t, we will”.

Earlier, the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, gave her personal backing for reforming the region’s tough abortion law, but cautioned against Westminster taking the matter into its own hands.

Bradley, who was among the Conservative frontbenchers who welcomed the opportunity to debate the issue, said abortion was a “matter of conscience” and would always be subject to a free vote in parliament.

“There are a number of voices calling for reform, including women and girls affected,” she said. “But it is also clear to me that there is no consensus on what that reform should be, even among those who want to see change.”

She said acting to reform the law from Westminster would “disenfranchise 1.3 million citizens of the United Kingdom,” and said the focus had to be restoring the devolved executive at Stormont.



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