Abortion in Northern Ireland

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 11:25 am, 25th March 2021

I do recognise the point the hon. Gentleman has made, and it is a point he has made to me directly on a number of occasions, about the unborn child. I have to say and I appreciate that this is an area where we do not have a similar view. There are many where we do, but not on this one. I do actually think that the situation of an unborn child is a hugely important issue, and it is something that we do need to ensure is properly respected and understood. The best way to do that is to make sure that proper, qualified, official health officials are able to give the right care, advice and support to women and girls in Northern Ireland. Part of the danger of the situation at the moment is that there are too many cases of women and girls, as was outlined by Members earlier this afternoon, who are sadly taking advice from the wrong quarters, making bad decisions and suffering badly—and, potentially, unborn children suffering badly—through bad healthcare that is not properly provided. I would argue that that is also a reason why this should be taken forward.

I do agree that I would like to see this being taken forward in the most appropriate way for Northern Ireland by the Northern Ireland Executive. They have not been able to do that over the last year, and there is still—even after the New Decade, New Approach deal, which we are all working to ensure is delivered, even in the difficult times of covid—a legal duty on me, as per the Act of Parliament in 2019, to make sure that these services are provided. I will continue to work with the Department of Health to make sure we do everything we can to make sure this is taken forward locally in Northern Ireland, but this does need to be taken forward.