The MP noted that there is not “public demand in Northern Ireland for this greatly expanded abortion framework.”
The region rejected the Abortion Act 1967 that legalized abortion in England, Wales, and Scotland, and bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.
Hayes proposed that “simplest way to stop the UK Government infringing on the devolution settlement is to repeal Section 9,” which would return “full control to the devolved administration.”
He warned that “feeding the feeling that Westminster is using Northern Ireland to test policies before implementing them in England could fuel Irish nationalism.”
“Rather than imposing a policy that is not being applied anywhere else in the Union, we should limit the changes to only those that are legally required, or repeal Section 9 altogether.”
Hayes concluded that “To re-empathise the Government’s commitment to the devolution settlement – the bedrock of the peace agreement in Northern Ireland – the Northern Ireland Office must repeal section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act, or – at the very least – not go beyond what is legally required while abortion is fully devolved to Northern Ireland and the new Assembly’s authority is honoured.”
And Rep. Chris Smith wrote to Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, that “imposing a liberal abortion regime upon Northern Ireland shows a contempt for the Good Friday Agreement’s devolution provisions, and weakens the entire agreement, which is the framework for the fragile peace that Northern Ireland has known.”
Smith's letter, in which he was joined by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), was reported in the Belfast Telegraph March 16.
The US Representatives wrote that “imposition of Section 9 — which provides for a far more liberal abortion regime than currently exists in the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom ... runs counter to the fundamental democratic principles of self-governance and self-determination.”
They encouraged Lewis to “let Northern Ireland work this issue out through its own representative Assembly”.
“Abortion on demand is not the will of the people in Northern Ireland, and if it were, Northern Ireland has a duly constituted Assembly by which it can balance equities and legislate on the matter,” Smith wrote.
(Story continues below)
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In January, a newly-elected MP for a Northern Irish constituency also urged that section 9 be repealed.
“I want today to make the point to this House, on behalf of the many thousands of people across Northern Ireland who take a pro-life stance, that we want to repeal section 9 with immediate effect and allow for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate, discuss and evidence-gather on this emotive issue,” Carla Lockhart said Jan. 8 in the House of Commons in Westminster.
Lockhart, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, was elected MP for Upper Bann in the 2019 UK general election.
“It is imperative that I speak on this to attempt again to highlight the anger, disappointment and frustration concerning the change in abortion laws that have been foisted upon the people of Northern Ireland,” Lockhart stated. “These changes came in the most roughshod way, with complete contempt for the devolved Administration and the views of the people of Northern Ireland.”
Lockhart stated: “I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life … help us create a culture of choosing life.” She asked for government provision of a perinatal palliative care center, a maternal mental health unit, and better childcare services.
Lockhart responded to the proposed framework saying that “it is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, has published consultation proposals to introduce changes which go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament.”