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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:15 pm on 28th October 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 11:15 pm, 28th October 2019

I thank the Secretary of State for bringing forward the Northern Ireland Executive legislation and information for us tonight. I want to speak about the issue of abortion; there will be no surprise among people here that I am doing so.

In the past two weeks, the point has been made on a number of occasions that from 22 October there has been no legislation in Northern Ireland requiring that abortions must take place either in NHS hospitals or private clinics. The shadow Minister referred to that as well. Expert legal opinion from David Lock QC, the former Labour MP and leading lawyer in the field of NHS and health legislation, has pointed out that the Health and Personal Social Services (Quality, Improvement and Regulation) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003 regulates only certain types of premises, so does not ban any procedure from taking place outside such premises. David Lock QC points out that that means that if a doctor—or, indeed, someone without any formal qualifications—wanted to become an independent provider of abortions outside of a clinic, they would not be subject to any form of statutory prohibition or regulation at all.

In short, that means that back-street abortions were made legal in Northern Ireland on 22 October, with all the attendant health risks to women. I believe that that is extraordinary—indeed, it is unbelievable. Never before has the law been changed in any part of the United Kingdom with the effect of making back-street abortions legal.