Thank you for contacting me about the new abortion framework for Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 received Royal Assent on 24 July 2019. As the Northern Ireland Executive was not been restored by 21st October 2019 after over one thousand days without sitting, Parliament placed an obligation on the UK Government to change the law in Northern Ireland relating to three important issues, including abortion.
I am aware it has always been the Government’s strong preference for decisions on sensitive, devolved matters such as these to be taken by the locally elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland. As the main political parties in Northern Ireland did not meet this deadline, these obligations have now taken effect. The Government is legally required to make regulations that provide lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland in accordance with the recommendations made in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women report.
It is my understanding that the Government will continue to work closely with the relevant Northern Ireland government departments to ensure implementation of the recommendations, ensuring that the legal provisions for access to abortion services can also be accompanied by models of care, training, professional guidance and professional standards of practice to assist medical professionals.
The Northern Ireland Secretary has said that if the Northern Ireland Executive can agree on amendments, they have the power to change the legislation themselves.
However, any changes they make must also comply with the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
I will continue to monitor the situation closely as the new regulations are implemented.