Abortion is a matter devolved to Northern Ireland’s representatives. Today, Belfast’s Court of Appeal ruled abortion law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly, not judges – which overturns an earlier ruling that the current abortion laws are incompatible with human rights laws.
Yet Stella Creasy has taken it on herself to carry on a campaign to undermine abortion law in Northern Ireland by requiring the NHS to fund terminations for women travelling from there to England. That’s why the government conceded today that when Northern Irish women travel to Britain for an abortion, it will be funded by the NHS, so they won’t, as now, have to pay for it.
Stella and her backers – MPs from all parties and, it would seem, Justine Greening – threatened to destabilise the deal between the DUP and the Tory Party with her amendment; inevitably, the Tories cracked. So the situation in Northern Ireland stays in theory as is, but in practice, women will be encouraged to travel to England to have an abortion at a cost of a million pounds a year to the British taxpayer.
The colonial arrogance on the part of Stella and Co is, it would seem, based on the premise that people in Northern Ireland are too thick or too morally obtuse to work out a position on this fraught moral issue for themselves: both, probably. In fact, it reflects the Labour manifesto position on the question, which was simply to impose English abortion laws on Northern Ireland.
Yet the Northern Irish position on abortion is that it is only allowable if the pregnancy poses a permanent and serious risk to the mental or physical health of the mother (with characteristic dishonesty the BBC has focused on the case of Sarah Ewart, who travelled to Britain in 2013 to abort a foetus who developed without a brain – utterly unrepresentative of the 753 women from Northern Ireland who came to England to have abortions last year). In other words, the situation in Northern Ireland pretty well reflects the letter of the original 1967 Abortion Act – as opposed to the free-for-all in the rest of the UK.
It’s the abortion law here that needs reforming, not there.