It was passed while the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, though the legislature resumed meeting in January.
Prior to the NI EF Act abortion was legally permitted in the region only if the mother's life was at risk or if there was risk of long term or permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health.
Walker wrote in his foreword that despite the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly, "the Government remains under a legal duty under section 9 of NI EF Act, and that the government "understands the strength of feeling on this issue and we have always been clear that the best way of bringing forward reform in this area would have been for the Executive and Assembly to take this forward, in the best interests of Northern Ireland."
The framework was adopted following a consultation in November and December 2019 which asked 15 questions regarding particularities of how legal abortion provision should be made in Northern Ireland. The consultation was based on a proposed framework.
More than 21,200 responses to the consultation were received. Of the responses, 79% "expressed a view registering their general opposition to any abortion provision in Northern Ireland beyond that which is currently permitted."
"The Government appreciates the wide range of consultation responses received and we are extremely thankful to all individuals and organisations who took the time to respond," Walker wrote. "We also recognise that there are a wide range views on these sensitive policy issues, which we have carefully considered and sought to ensure are appropriately reflected in the Government's response to the consultation."
He said that "in considering the consultation responses, we have sought to balance the range of views against our legal obligations, and taken pragmatic decisions informed by evidence, in order to bring forward a new legislative framework that will be operationally sound, that works best for Northern Ireland and that delivers on the Government's duty."
The government said it "particularly reflected" on the consultations provided by "respondents with experience or expertise in terms of operational workability and proper access to services on the ground in Northern Ireland."
The adopted framework closely mirrors the proposed framework.
The 12 week limit for elective abortions was adopted "to allow access for victims of sexual crime (i.e. rape and incest)" and because, the government said, "introducing a framework which creates barriers to access is unlikely to reduce the rate of terminations, but would rather be likely to lead to women buying abortion pills online, unlawfully, with attendant health risks, rather than accessing safe services."
Many of the provisions were adopted to be in line with existing law in England, Wales, and Scotland.
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Carla Lockhart, a newly-elected MP for a Northern Irish constituency who is a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, said the adopted framework "ignores the devolution settlement and the overwhelming viewpoint of the Northern Ireland people."
Northern Ireland rejected the Abortion Act 1967, and bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.
The amendment to the NI EF Act obliging the government to provide for legal abortion in Northern Ireland was introduced by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who represents a London constituency.
In October 2019, the High Court in Belfast had ruled that the region's ban on the abortion of unborn children with fatal abnormalities violated the UK's human rights commitments.
Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.