Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that Northern Ireland Minister Mo Mowlam’s plans to overhaul abortion laws will be “on ice” and cause further division, newly released documents reveal.
Previously confidential state documents show there have been discussions within the government since February 1998 about overhauling abortion laws in the region.
Subsequently, the Abortion Act 1967 no longer applied to Northern Ireland, and abortion law was instead governed by a combination of statute and case law.
In a letter to DUP MP Geoffrey Donaldson in June 1998, Ms Mowlam said the government was seeking advice from “a range of interests” including the Standing Human Rights Advisory Committee, High Court judges, obstetricians and gynecologists and women’s groups. , said that they are under pressure to clarify the current situation. position.
“This is not a position we are comfortable with as a responsible government. One of the options being considered is the creation of an expert panel to investigate the legal, medical and social issues raised by current laws and practices. “We confirm the establishment of a committee and make recommendations,” she wrote.
“However, our predecessors have consistently taken the view that if there is any change to the law, the preferred way to achieve it is through Northern Ireland’s elected representatives. I therefore expect that the expert review will be reported to the Northern Ireland Assembly and its Ministers at first instance.”
According to the files, Ms Mowlam proposed in 1999 that an independent review should be carried out into the legal and medical issues raised by Northern Ireland’s current abortion laws.
But she said Mr Blair told her he was “not convinced there should be a review now” as he believed there was “little scope for bilateral support”.
He told her, “You should keep it on ice for now.”
Mr Mowlam was recorded as accepting the Prime Minister’s views, but pointed to Labor’s pre-election pledge to review abortion laws and insisted: “I would like to return to this issue if the political process allows.”
She was recorded as saying that she felt the approach she proposed was “minimalist”.
The file also describes plans for a ship equipped with a fully equipped operating theater to perform abortions to dock in Dublin in 2001.
The ship was funded by Dutch women’s group Women on Waves and was recorded as planning to “launch a global campaign in Ireland, which has the strictest abortion policy in Europe”.
However, the paper also noted that the ship was not scheduled to come to Northern Ireland and, when asked about the matter, suggested it was a “matter for the authorities there (Dublin)” and suggested the “line to be taken”.