In Brief

Northern Ireland abortion: Irish vote puts pressure on Theresa May

Senior Tories urge the Prime Minister to back reform of Northern Ireland’s strict abortion law

Theresa May is facing growing calls to allow a referendum on liberalising abortion in Northern Ireland after the Republic voted overwhelmingly in favour of widening access to terminations.

Senior Conservative MPs, including Women and Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, have joined Labour and the Liberal Democrats in calling for Northern Ireland’s abortion laws to be reformed.

Northern Ireland has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, with terminations prohibited unless there is a serious risk to the mother’s mental or physical health.

More than 140 MPs are now said to be prepared to back an amendment to the domestic violence bill, coordinated by Labour MP Stella Creasy, to allow abortions in Ulster, the Daily Mirror reports.

“That could be the vehicle that allows MPs to hold a historic vote in Westminster,” the newspaper says.

But DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose party props up Theresa May’s government, said the result of Friday’s referendum in Ireland would have “no impact” on the province.

"The legislation governing abortion is a devolved matter and it is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate and decide such issues,” she said.

Downing Street echoed her comments, with a spokesperson arguing that this “very sensitive issue highlights the pressing need to restore a fully functioning executive” in Stormont.

But as Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for 18 months, pressure is growing on May’s government to intervene.

The issue is now “out of Stormont's hands due to the continuing stalemate - and pro-choice campaigners will be focusing their fight at Westminster, which presents a major headache for the Prime Minister,” says the BBC’s Jane McCormack.

“May will have to walk yet another political tightrope,” she adds. “She won't want to upset the DUP and risk her parliamentary majority but the growing pressure from within her own party and across Parliament on this issue means she will have to do something.” 

Infographic by www.statista.com for TheWeek.co.uk.

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