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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 3(5)

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:55 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley 7:55 pm, 16th October 2019

I absolutely do not doubt that all sorts of organisations have people in their congregations, in this instance, or in their number who lobby them. Lots of women lobby me every day from Northern Ireland, from every constituency over there represented on these Benches, asking me not to forget about the women of Northern Ireland and asking me to stand and give voice to their voice. I totally understand why Church groups might also want to give their voice. But I have never heard a Secretary of State tell me that they have been discussing this particular clinical health matter with Church groups. I do not mind if they discuss it with Church groups, to be honest, as long as they also discuss it with women’s rights groups: Women’s Aid Northern Ireland, for example, who have very strong opinions on this, specifically in the cases of victims of domestic abuse, or the rape crisis centres in Northern Ireland. I very much hope that every single one of those women’s rights groups, equal to any Church group, was consulted. I look forward to hearing from the Minister how that was done.

I also ask the Minister how he would feel if he had to have an examination that he felt a little bit uncomfortable about—I will not embarrass him by naming some of them—and he had to get on a plane and go to Belfast to have it, and not just that, but to have any treatment. I ask him now to imagine that he had not had to go to Belfast and that he was in lovely Worcester, a fine place in the midlands, and that he went to the doctor to ask a question about something that was wrong—again, I will not embarrass him, but let us say something about his fertility, or because he did not want to have children any more—and the doctor told him that he could no longer continue the conversation because if he did he would be criminalised. That would never happen here. My husband went to have a vasectomy; if it had happened in Northern Ireland nobody would be criminalised for that, yet when a woman wants to talk about her fertility that is exactly what happens.