Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Chief Whip, Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business in the House of Commons) 3:09 pm, 5th June 2018

I beg to differ with the hon. Lady. Research in Northern Ireland shows that since the introduction of the Abortion Act 1967 here, 100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because we in Northern Ireland did not accept that law. That research has been backed up with proper scientific fact. I am proud of that pro-life position. I am proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and the unborn child. We will maintain that position.

Contrary to some of the claims made by some in favour of liberalising the law in Northern Ireland, the law in Northern Ireland has been shown to reduce the number of abortions in our jurisdiction. That is a fact. The Both Lives Matter campaign, which has been very effective in Northern Ireland, demonstrated with its research that that is the case. For that reason, I am very thoughtful about any change in the law in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, we have long argued that it is for the people of Northern Ireland, through the Northern Ireland Assembly, to decide what the law on abortion should be. I very much respect the points made by Mrs Miller in that regard and we thank her for that acknowledgement.

This House made a decision in 2008 to devolve to Northern Ireland policing and justice powers, as the right hon. Lady reminded us. This House took that decision, which included the power to decide what the law on abortion in Northern Ireland should be. The Labour party was in power at that time and took that decision. I remind Labour Members that they do not contest elections in Northern Ireland. If they want to test the waters on this issue, we invite them to come and put their views forward and to contest elections in Northern Ireland. We are a functioning democracy. I might point out that its sister party in Northern Ireland is a pro-life party.

For our part, the DUP stands ready to take its place in both the Assembly and Executive today and without preconditions. We are ready to take on responsibility for governing Northern Ireland. We stand ready to work with the other parties to take decisions on sensitive issues like abortion, to arrive at an outcome that reflects the will of the people of Northern Ireland, respecting the rights of both women and unborn children and upholding the principle that both lives matter.