Credit: Paul Givan

First Minister Givan seeks to block Westminster imposition of abortion services for Northern Ireland

The First Minister of the Northern Ireland Assembly says he has sought legal advice on how to resist the imposition of full abortion services by Westminister. 

Paul Givan, who is a DUP member of the Legislative Assembly, said that he is assessing his options in a bid to stop the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, from using new powers to insist that full abortion services are rolled out in the region at the behest of the British parliament.

Mr Lewis is seeking to direct Stormont to roll out abortion services by March despite previously being on record as saying he could not take that option without agreement from all the power-sharing executive parties.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP were accused of going ‘cap in hand’ to Westminster to ask the British parliament to impose abortion, despite the long-held position of nationalists that an independent and united Ireland should be free of British control.

However, the DUP has resisted the move to roll out abortion provision in the region, with Mr Givan proposing a Bill in March that aimed to outlaw abortions on most disability grounds in Northern Ireland.

Now Mr Givan said he has spoken to Lewis on the matter.

“I spoke to the Secretary of State and I said to him he shouldn’t do this, that it was wrong for him to do it. I was disappointed whenever he proceeded in issuing that direction,” he said.

“We are taking legal advice now as to the implications of that legal action that he has taken and what our options legally are to resist that.

“It certainly is my intention to resist what the Secretary of State has done by way of a direction but I need to look at all of my options, both politically and legally, whenever it comes to this particular issue.”

Mr Givan told BBC Northern Ireland that there were “profound constitutional ramifications” to the order made by Mr Lewis, and said that he intended to obstruct the Westminster direction.

Pro-life groups welcomed the move. Precious Life said that the majority of people in Northern Ireland did not want Westminster to decide for the region and that women deserved love and support, not abortion.

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