Emergency debate: Sections of the Offences against the Persons Act

05 June 2018

MPs held an emergency debate on 5 June 2018 on Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 relating to abortion.

The debate related to the issue of the availability of abortion in Northern Ireland. Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow, successfully applied for the debate and opened proceedings, telling the House:

"The truth is that, in 2018, we still do not trust our own women. This is the one healthcare decision that no UK woman can make on her own. That is why the UN has called on us to repeal these specific sections of law; no Assembly, nor indeed this place, can make any progressive law for itself on this subject without doing so. In supporting this proposal, every Member can send a message that, in 2018, all the women of the UK deserve to be treated as equal citizens."

Responding on behalf of the Government, the Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said:

"Just as we have debated in this House the laws that ought to apply here, so the democratically elected Assembly in Northern Ireland must continue to consider this fundamental issue, listening to the views of the people of Northern Ireland."

As such, she said that her priority is "working closely with Northern Ireland’s political parties to restore the devolved government that the public want".

Application for debate

The House of Commons agreed to an application for an emergency debate, made by the Labour MP, Stella Creasy, on Monday 4 June 2018.

Emergency debates

An emergency debate is a debate called at short notice in the House of Commons on a matter that should have urgent consideration. An MP may apply to the Speaker for an emergency debate under the rules of Standing Order No. 24.

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