Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:39 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Stella Creasy Stella Creasy Labour/Co-operative, Walthamstow 2:39 pm, 5th June 2018

If I may, I would like to make a little progress, because I realise some of this is quite technical.

I want to set out very clearly why a referendum would not be the right approach. Those who are suggesting it need to be clear about what the question would be. What would they consult the public on, and who would write the question? If the law were passed, who would then implement it? Indeed, if we had a referendum on bringing abortion rights or a particular form of abortion to Northern Ireland, would we also allow a referendum on other contested issues, such as the Union itself?

I may not share the views of my colleagues from the DUP about a woman’s right to choose, but I find myself in agreement with Sir Jeffrey M. Donaldson, who wrote to one of his constituents saying, “inevitably it is” Westminster

“politicians who have to make the call on this”.

He recognises that

“this law applies across the whole of the United Kingdom and not just Northern Ireland”,

so it is right for MPs in this House to consider whether repealing sections 58 and 59 of OAPA is the right thing to do. I also note that he recognises and acknowledges that

“there is no substantive support among the local political parties”— in Northern Ireland—

“for extending the 1967 Abortion Act”,

because people would like to be able to write their own legislation. By repealing these provisions in OAPA, we will make that a possibility, and we will therefore make that a possibility in England and Wales as well.