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“Back off” on abortion, Arlene Foster tells British Secretary of State 

Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, has told the Secretary of State for the region, British MP Brandon Lewis, to “back off” on compelling Stormont to implement abortion laws. 

Abortion is considered a devolved issue – to be decided locally in the region – but in 2019, with the contrivance of Sinn Féin and some members of SDLP, the British Parliament voted to impose abortion on Northern Ireland while the Assembly at Stormont was in a period of suspension due to policy disagreements between its power-sharing parties.

Derry Councillor, Dr Anne McCloskey, accused Sinn Féín at the time of going “cap in hand to Westminister” to ask for direct rule on abortion. The party had previously long protested that  Westminster should have no part in governing the people of Ireland.
The imposition of abortion was opposed by Aontú and the DUP, and to date, Health Minister Robin Swan has not yet commissioned services across the region, saying the Executive must agree to the measure. However, private agencies have performed at least 700 abortions in that time.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis said he would lay a regulation at Westminster giving him the power to direct the region’s health department to commission abortion provision.

But Ms Foster, has now told him to “back off” – and says it is the view of her party that “both lives matter”.

“Whilst we have spent this past year trying to save lives from Covid-19, we should also try and save lives in the womb and that’s our clear desire and wish,” she told a press conference in Dungannon.

“It’s quite wrong to say abortions haven’t been happening here, and of course we deeply regret that to be the case,” she said.

“This is a hugely complex, controversial, legally challenging issue for the Executive but let us be very clear, it is for the Executive, it is not for Brandon Lewis, and I think not only did my colleagues make that clear today in the House of Commons but a number of Brandon Lewis’s colleagues made that clear to him today.

“The reason why he brought it to the House in the first place was there was no devolution at the time, there is devolution now and he should back off,” she said.

Pro-life groups welcomed Ms Foster’s remarks, however Sinn Féin called for abortion to be made widely available.


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