Foster: Irish abortion referendum will have no impact upon Northern Ireland law

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Arlene Foster has said the Irish abortion referendum will have no impact upon law in Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader said legislation governing terminations was a devolved matter and it was for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate and decide such issues.

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing pressure to liberalise the strict laws in Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal in all but the most exceptional of circumstances.

The devolved Stormont Assembly has not sat for months following a row between former coalition partners the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein over a botched green energy scheme.

Following calls for a similar referendum north of the border, she said no constitutional bar existed on abortion in Northern Ireland like that which had covered the procedure in the Republic.

“The legislation governing abortion is a devolved matter and it is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate and decide such issues.

“Some of those who wish to circumvent the Assembly’s role may be doing so simply to avoid its decision.”

The DUP is an anti-abortion party and supports Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Conservative Government on key votes at Westminster.

Mrs Foster added: “It is an extremely sensitive issue and not one that should have people taking to the streets in celebration.

“I want to see the Northern Ireland Assembly restored and put no preconditions on the immediate establishment of an Executive.

“Some of those demanding change (Sinn Fein) are the same people blocking devolution or demanding that Westminster change the law whilst simultaneously opposing Direct Rule.”

Meanwhile, a number of anti-abortion women’s groups including Both Lives Matter from Northern Ireland have written to the Prime Minister urging her not to allow the procedure in the country.

“On balance, we concluded that the evidence indicated that there was a reasonable probability that around 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland today who would have otherwise been aborted had it been legal to do so.

“Like many in Northern Ireland, we support legislation which upholds the value and worth of both mothers and unborn children.”

They added: “As women who live in Northern Ireland and represent organisations with thousands of supporters based here, we want to make clear that we believe it is for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives to decide on what the law on abortion in Northern Ireland should be.”

A statement from the Alliance for Choice group said the parties that represent the strongest objection to abortion legislation reform for Northern Ireland were not representing their supporters.

It said 73% of DUP supporters backed access to abortion in cases of rape or incest, in clear contrast to the party itself, with 0% support for change.

It said 69% of SDLP voters felt the same way.

“People in Northern Ireland are not voting for the DUP or SDLP because of their stance on abortion or gay marriage, they vote for them despite their stance on social issues.

“The DUP have stated that we do not want to be bullied into accepting abortion in Northern Ireland, but the thousands of people who have travelled for abortions and the thousand more who self-aborted at home, and their friends and families do not agree and have never been asked.

“Protestant and Catholic people in Northern Ireland have abortions at the same rate and when left to the assembly they have dodged and swayed and blocked the question.”

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