Pro-life group fundraising for judicial review into Northern Ireland abortion law


A leading pro-life group is hoping to raise over £100,000 to fund a judicial review into Westminster's "illegitimate and unconstitutional" efforts to impose abortion on Northern Ireland. 

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is joining forces with the Centre for Bioethical Reform Northern Ireland (CBR NI) to mount a legal challenge against the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021.

The regulations give Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis power to direct the First and Deputy First Ministers and the departments of health, justice and education, to implement a "fully-funded abortion service".

Spelling out the scope of the regulations, SPUC said Lewis would be free to compel schools to teach sex education classes and arrange abortions for underage girls without the knowledge of their parents. 

"People should be under no illusions - this proposal represents nothing less than an existential challenge to the very existence of the pro-life movement in Northern Ireland," said SPUC's Northern Ireland Political Officer Liam Gibson.

"Men and women from all political backgrounds, faiths and traditions who view the right to life as the fundamental human right need to stand up and demand that the London government listens.

"By supporting our legal action people will be speaking out against these illegitimate and unconstitutional Regulations. They will also be giving a voice to the thousands of innocent children who lives will be lost if this power grab is allowed to succeed." 

Gibson said abortion was a devolved matter that should be left to Northern Ireland's lawmakers to decide on, as he called the latest move Westminster "a disgraceful power grab" that hands an "unprecedented level of power to a politician who is not answerable to the people of Northern Ireland". 

"If allowed to stand it will not only condemn to death an untold number of unborn babies but fatally undermine the devolution settlement as well," he said. 

"When the Northern Ireland Executive was not functioning, the UK Government foisted radical abortion laws on us which would never have secured a majority in the Stormont Assembly.

"By seizing the power over our abortion laws, London is stripping locally elected ministers of power and have denied the people an accountable government with a democratic mandate.

"It was particularly disappointing to see just how few of the MPs who claim to support the Northern Ireland political settlement were prepared to defend devolution."

In the Government's 2019 public consultation on expanding abortion laws in Northern Ireland, 79% of submissions expressed opposition. 

Gibson added, "It is a basic principle of democracy that politicians are accountable to the electorate. 

"By supporting our legal action people will be speaking out against these illegitimate and unconstitutional regulations. They will also be giving a voice to the thousands of innocent children who lives will be lost if Brandon Lewis is not stopped.

"We are calling for all pro-life voices to unite in backing this case. The politicians making the decisions about our abortion laws must be accountable to the people of Northern Ireland. This is essential if full legal protection for unborn children is ever to be restored."

Pastor Clive Johnston of The Bridge Fellowship, Strabane, and a member of CBR NI, has sent a pre-action letter to the UK Government in which he says that the current regulations are legally outside the powers of the Secretary of State.

Johnston said it was a "critical" time for the pro-life movement in Northern Ireland. 

"The UK government's actions since the summer of 2019 have effectively destroyed the concept of devolution and have set a dangerous precedent for the future," he said.

"It creates a blueprint for Westminster to strip Stormont of all powers in areas where Northern Ireland differs from England.

"This is a watershed moment and we are calling on everyone who cares about the kind of society their children will grow up in to help us win this crucial battle.

"By joining forces, sharing resources and being represented by a stellar legal team we hope to reverse these regulations and take back control of our laws."

John Deighan, SPUC's deputy CEO added: "These are the most challenging times the pro-life movement has ever faced in Northern Ireland and we will work closely with Pastor Johnston and CBR NI as we seek to defeat London's attempts to impose the most extreme abortion regime in Europe on an unwilling population."