Pro-life group loses NI abortion legal challenge

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The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has lost a legal challenge against a directive rolling out radical abortion laws across Northern Ireland.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis, was granted new powers last year enabling him to commission an expansion of abortion provision without the approval of Northern Ireland ministers. 

SPUC argued that the regulations granting him the powers undermined the devolution settlement and exceeded the NI Secretary of State's lawful authority. 

The pro-life group's lawyers also argued that the new powers fundamentally changed the balance between the devolved institutions and central government in London.

The Court of Appeal dismissed SPUC's legal challenge on Thursday. 

Responding to the court's decision, Liam Gibson, SPUC's Belfast-based Policy and Legal Officer, said it was an "unjust" outcome for Northern Ireland. 

Gibson said that Westminster had "effectively seized control over abortion policy by stripping locally elected Ministers of any say on the matter".

"Northern Ireland's policy on abortion is a devolved matter yet the Secretary of State, who is not accountable to the people of Northern Ireland, now has complete control over this matter and a range of other highly contentious issues," he said.

"The same law that introduced abortion also calls for compulsory sex education and this judgement could be used to expose children to pornography or promote the 'trans' agenda in Northern Ireland schools.

"There isn't even an obligation to carry out a public consultation. This sets a very dangerous precedent and will further undermine confidence in the devolved institutions."

A 2019 poll by pro-life group Both Lives Matter found that a majority of people in Northern Ireland did not support Westminster's changes to the province's abortion laws.