The exclusion of those carrying out ancillary, administrative, or managerial tasks from conscientious objection may be "too narrow and does not adequately protect" the rights to religious or philosophical beliefs under the European Convention on Human Rights.
According to the committee, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland submitted that ancillary staff are unlawfully discriminated against because the Northern Ireland Act 1998 prevents the Assembly and the Secretary of State "from enacting any provision which discriminates against any person or class of person on the ground of religious belief or political opinion."
The committee wrote that "Given the sensitivity of the issues around conscientious objection, the House may wish to ask the Minister to consider further the scope of the policy and how it will be interpreted."
The report also discussed the regulation of abortion in cases of severe fetal impairment or fetal fetal abnormality.
Several submissions said the abortion of those with severe impairment is contrary to EU law because the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities "extends to those in the womb," but that the region's attorney general acknowledged that the NI EF Act required the implementation of such a regulation because of CEDAW.
"There therefore appears to be a question over which UN Convention should take priority," the committee wrote.
However, the Northern Ireland Office holds that the UNCRPD is not a binding law, and added: "we do not agree that the provision extends protection to those in the womb."
The legislative scrutiny committee noted that the "the regime chosen largely mirrors the services available in the rest of the UK. In the light of the overwhelmingly negative response to the consultation exercise, it would have been better if the reasons for the specific policy choices made, were explained in more detail in the EM, and the House may wish to press the Minister for further explanation."
Other submissions noted that "severe disability" could be interpreted differently and could include cleft lip or Down syndrome, and that the CEDAW recommendation requires the provision of abortion for "severe foetal impairment", while not "perpetuating sterotypes towards persons with disabilities."
"The House may wish to press the Minister about how these provisions will be interpreted," the committee noted.
Some submissions also noted that because the baby's sex can be identified at 10 weeks, and elective abortions are permitted up to 12 weeks, "there is a significant omission in the Regulations in that … they do not prevent abortion on the grounds of the foetus's gender."
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The report concludes noting that "the NIO states that, where possible, this statutory framework mirrors the Abortion Act 1967 so that provision will be broadly consistent with the abortion services in the rest of the UK. The NIO was, however, obliged by law to implement the specific recommendations of the CEDAW Report which relate to Northern Ireland. This report has sought to expand on some of the Government's policy choices and also to air the main issues drawn to our attention in submissions, to assist the House in the forthcoming debate."
Right to Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said April 28 that the committee "chosen to draw these regulations to the special attention of the House. The Committee has reported on a number of serious issues with the regulations."
"MPs and Peers at Westminster must take on board these problems and vote against the regulations when they are brought before Parliament," she added.
The regulations are due to be voted on before May 17.
David Alton, Baron Alton of Liverpool, commented April 25 that Northern Ireland's abortion law "should have been decided in Northern Ireland not imposed by Westminster. Both Parliament and the Northern Ireland Office have shown great contempt for the people of Northern Ireland – and for normal constitutional and parliamentary good practice – in seeking to impose, by diktat, laws which in the rest of the UK have led to one child in the womb being aborted every three minutes."
Lord Alton wrote that the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee's report highlights "that this issue needs to be reconsidered in Northern Ireland by the Assembly which is responsible for what the law and policy on this issue. Riding roughshod over the Assembly in this way shows contempt for devolution, power sharing, proper political process, and the people of Northern Ireland."