Most people in Northern Ireland want abortion law decision made locally – survey

Almost two-thirds of people in Northern Ireland want local politicians to make the decisions on the region’s abortion laws, a new poll has suggested.

The results were released by anti-abortion group Both Lives Matter as it stepped up its campaign against moves to legislate on the contentious restrictions at Westminster.

Both Lives Matter said the latest poll, conducted by ComRes, demonstrated that people in Northern Ireland did not want law changes imposed upon them from London.

The group said the poll found that 64% of those surveyed wanted decisions about abortion taken by locally elected politicians. Breaking down the data, two out of three women (66%) backed local decisions. In the age group 18 to 34 – both men and women – 70% supported that position.

Abortions in Northern Ireland are illegal in all but exceptional medical and mental health circumstances.

The Government has so far resisted pressure to step in to legislate for reform in the wake of a recent Supreme Court judgment that found the current legal framework incompatible with human rights laws.

In June, a majority of Supreme Court judges said the ban on terminations in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality needed “radical reconsideration”.

Given there are no ministers at Stormont due to the powersharing impasse, pro-choice campaigners have demanded that the laws are changed at Westminster.

Next week a private member’s bill will be tabled at Westminster by Labour MP Diana Johnson aiming to remove sections of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act that make abortion a criminal offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The 1967 Abortion Act in England and Wales provided for exemptions to the 1861 Act, enabling legal abortions.

ComRes polled 1,013 Northern Ireland adults online between October 8 and 15.

Dawn McAvoy (pictured) from Both Lives Matter, which launched the poll at an event in Westminster, criticised Ms Johnson’s parliamentary bid.

“This polling clearly shows that this is not what the people of Northern Ireland, and in particular women, want,” she said.

“100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because Northern Ireland did not accept the same abortion law that was introduced into Britain in 1967.

“We urge British MPs to respect the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives. We want to encourage MPs to respect devolution in Northern Ireland by voting against Diana Johnson MP’s Ten Minute Rule Bill on October 23.”

The Women and Equalities Committee at Westminster recently announced an inquiry that will examine whether the Government has a responsibility to reform abortion laws in the region or whether the contentious issue should only be one for devolved ministers to determine.

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