Consientious objection is allowed for direct participation in abortion, but not for ancillary, administrative, or managerial tasks associated with the procedure, because that "would have consequences on a practical level and would therefore undermine the effective provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland."
Buffer zones have not been set up around locations where abortions are procured, barring protest in the locations' immediate vicinity. The government has decided to wait and see what the situation will be, keeping the matter under review so it can "respond to any challenges as needed at the time."
The new framework was adopted to implement Westminster's Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019, which decriminalized abortion in Northern Ireland and placed a moratorium on abortion-related criminal prosecutions, and obliged the UK government to create legal access to abortion in the region by March 31.
It was passed while the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended, though the legislature resumed meeting in January.
Northern Ireland rejected the Abortion Act 1967, which 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.
John Hayes, the Conservative MP for South Holland and The Deepings, said ahead of the regulations' introduction that the process was "overriding devolution."
"It seems likely this will be interpreted as the UK Government imposing its will on a reluctant part of the Kingdom which is doubtless disdainfully regarded by Whitehall's liberal elite as antediluvian," he wrote earlier this month.
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 had been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.