Evangelical Alliance warns Theresa May not to 'interfere' in Northern Ireland's abortion law

The Evangelical Alliance has issued a warning to Theresa May not to 'interfere' in Northern Irish affairs when it comes to abortion, saying the UK government 'cannot' legislate on the matter as it is devolved.

In a statement issued to Christian Today, Peter Lynas, the Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance said: 'Westminister could have legislated for abortion in Northern Ireland at any time since 1967. It choose not to. Having devolved the matter, it cannot now legislate.'

UK prime minister Theresa May has come under pressure to legislate on abortion in Northern IrelandReuters

Lynas continued: 'We know for a fact that 100,000 people are alive in Northern Ireland today who would not be if we had introduced the 1967 Abortion Act. That is an incredibly hopeful story that the prime minister should remember as the pressure mounts to interfere in Northern Ireland.

'The idea that easier abortion is the solution to crisis pregnancy is simply wrong. Politicians must address the structural and systemic inequalities which lead women to believe that abortion is their only choice.'

The comments come after the overwhelming vote in last week's Irish referendum on whether or not to liberalise the abortion law, with 66.4 per cent voting in favour and 33.6 per cent against.

And they come as Catholic Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg also added his voice yesterday to those saying that May should resist pressure to reform strict abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

He was responding to Labour's Baroness Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, who said May, as a 'self-identifying feminist', should deliver similar rights to women north of the border, where abortions are permitted only if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Rees-Mogg insisted it was for Northern Irish politicians to decide on any reform, and urged May to encourage all parties in Northern Ireland to restore devolved institutions including the assembly, which has been suspended since January 2017.

'This issue is really one of devolution,' he told LBC radio. 'This responsibility is devolved to Northern Ireland and if you respect our constitutional settlement then these issues ought to be decided in the right place.

'This is one of the reasons for encouraging Northern Irish politicians to bring their assembly back together, so that they can settle these issues that are their responsibility.'

May's Westminster government depends on the support in the House of Commons of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs, who oppose reforming abortion laws.

Lynas concluded: 'Many of those who favour abortion say they want it to be free, safe, legal and rare. That is exactly what the law in Northern Ireland allows. Abortion is permitted when there is a serious and permanent threat to life and health of the mother. Such abortions are free on the NHS, they are safe and thankfully they are rare. Surely that is what we should all be striving towards.'