Poulter supports change to Ulster law on abortion and same-sex marriage

Dr Dan Poulter. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Dr Dan Poulter. Picture: PAUL GEATER - Credit: Archant

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter was one of the sponsors of an amendment which could lead to the relaxation of strict rules against abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Dr Poulter was one of 43 Conservatives who voted – against the wishes of the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley – to back an amendment calling for better scrutiny of human rights in Ulster.

Labour MP Stella Creasy’s amendment to emergency legislation linked to the region’s powersharing crisis was approved by 207 votes to 117 – majority 90 – following a debate in the Commons.

Dr Poulter was one of a number of Tory MPs to co-sponsor the amendment which was also supported by Colchester MP Will Quince.

Ms Creasy’s latest proposal does not end Northern Ireland’s abortion ban nor end the ban on same-sex marriage, instead focusing on issuing guidance to increase accountability of the Northern Ireland Secretary and senior officers of Northern Ireland departments over their role in ensuring human rights compliance.

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While the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill is designed to partly address the governance vacuum created by the collapse of powersharing, and provide breathing space for the region’s rowing politicians to resume negotiations, Ms Creasy and Labour colleague Conor McGinn wanted to use it as a vehicle to deliver wider social change.

The move was opposed by the DUP, while Tory MP Anne Main (St Albans) criticised attempts to “bolt-on abortion legislation” within the Bill.

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Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley voiced concern over amending the Bill and noted it enables civil servants to act within the law “as it stands today”, but does not give them the ability to change the law.

Tory MPs were given a free vote on the amendment.

Dr Poulter said: “This is a matter of human rights. The fact is that when it comes to the right to have abortions, women in one part of the United Kingdom face some of the most restrictive laws in the world and that is not right.

“This doesn’t change things immediately – but it is a very important step on the way towards improving their rights.”

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