One of the most prominent civil figure in the north of Ireland has called for abortion legislation not to proceed while everyone is pre-occupied with the Coronavirus crisis. 

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, who was the first Police Ombudsman for the region from 1999 to 2007, says that the British government “should not proceed at this time of national emergency to introduce this new regime.”

“It is unthinkable that a beleaguered health staff should have to cope with the introduction of abortion without any planning, training, resourcing or immediate provision for counselling services and aftercare support, yet this is what is due to happen by March 31,” Baroness O’Loan said.

Writing in The Irish News she said the coronavirus, Covid-19, had brought some “uncertainty about what the future holds” and that health professionals and emergency services were doing all they can. Covid-19 was proving an enormous threat to the NHS.

During this crisis, the British government seemed set to introduce abortion legislation which ” will far exceed that required by law”, wrote Baroness O’Loan.

“The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 requires the government to allow abortion where there is a threat to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, where the unborn child has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disability, and where the woman has been the victim of rape or incest,” she said.

However, the Northern Ireland Office now seemed set to go far beyond that, the former Police Ombudsman claimed.

“It seems following the consultation that the proposed regulations will allow abortion for any reason – including the sex or race of the baby – up to either 12 or 14 weeks, and up to 22 or 24 weeks if there is a risk (not a threat) to the physical or mental health of the woman, any existing children or her family.”

“The consultation further suggests no restrictions on the locations in which an abortion can take place, and that there will be no legal requirement for a doctor to be involved. In addition to this, abortions could be allowed in NI up to birth after the diagnosis of any disability and not, as required by the Act, a life-limiting disability,” she wrote.

Last week some 2,000 people with Down’s Syndrome and their families wrote to the prime minister asking him not to introduce abortion up to birth in cases of disability, including Down’s Syndrome.

“The government should not proceed at this time of national emergency to introduce this new regime,” Baroness O’Loan said