A Northern Irish pro-life MP has criticised the UK Government for imposing an abortion regime on Northern Ireland that legalises sex-selective abortion.
Speaking during a Commons debate on the availability of abortion throughout the region, Carla Lockhart, DUP MP for Upper Bann, called out the Government for imposing the regulations, in which sex-selective abortion is permitted.
“It is still a matter of deep regret that the overwhelming view of the people of Northern Ireland, in wanting to protect life, was and is still disregarded by those in this place,” she said.
“I take a contrary view to the hon. Member for North Down (Stephen Farry). On implementing what the Government term adequate abortion provision in Northern Ireland, is the Minister concerned that under Northern Ireland’s abortion regulations, sex-selective abortion is permitted?
“The regulations permit abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, within which time it is possible to determine the sex of the foetus. What measures will he take to address this matter of deep concern?”
In response, Robin Walker, the Minister for State for Northern Ireland, claimed this was an issue that the Government take seriously.
“It is about protecting the rights of women and girls,” he noted. “The regulations in Northern Ireland, as she will recognise, do not make any reference to sex-selective abortion. They follow the same approach as those in the rest of the UK on this issue.”
Mr Walker said the Government publishes an annual analysis of the male-female birth ratio for England and Wales to see whether any evidence of this issue arises.
“The latest reports show no evidence that this is an issue in England and Wales,” he said. “We will continue to report on the sex birth ratio, and will work with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency to consider including Northern Ireland in this analysis in future years.
“In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the regulations, and urge the Executive to move forward with commissioning.”
However, a BBC investigation, which was published in 2018, revealed evidence that new NIPT pre-natal tests were being used on a widespread basis to determine the sex of babies early in pregnancy. It also warned that women were coming under intense pressure to undergo sex-selective abortions and it had lead to renewed calls for the Government to take action on sex-selective abortion.
Catherine Robinson, of Right To Life UK, pointed out that it is impossible to know whether the availability of sex-selective abortion would have a long-term impact on the sex ratio in Northern Ireland, as abortion has been available there for just under a year.
However, she added that the fact that it is legal at all is “appalling”.
“It is a truly monstrous practice that any civilised nation should ban outright,” said Ms Robinson.
“Abortion providers, who sell their product in the name of women’s rights, have nothing to say about this most profound attack on the rights of women and girls in the womb whose lives are ended for the crime of being girls.
“As we see with disability selective abortion, while our nation is doing much to end unjust discrimination against people with disabilities and the unfair treatment of women, those sentiments do not apply to disabled babies or girls in the womb.”
Picture: Carla Lockhart. (David Woolfall/Wikimedia Commons).