The government is more concerned with keeping the DUP on side than giving women in Northern Ireland access to abortions, Stella Creasy has said.
In a blog for HuffPost UK, the influential Labour backbencher said Tory ministers had effectively blocked attempts to use the long-awaited Domestic Abuse Bill to liberalise abortion rights in Northern Ireland.
The government had done this, she said, over fears of offending the deeply-conservative Northern Irish DUP, which the government relies on for a majority in parliament.
It is currently illegal to get an abortion in Northern Ireland in almost every circumstance – including when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and the when the foetus has a fatal abnormality which means it would not survive outside the womb.
But the decision by the government to limit the bill to “devolved matters”, means MPs like Creasy were unable to table amendments to change the law.
“We know that across parliament and Northern Ireland itself there is support for reform, with MPs voting to repeal the outdated legislation that means a woman who is raped in Northern Ireland and seeks a termination as a result faces a longer sentence than her attacker,” Creasy wrote.
“Yet we also know the DUP rigidly oppose change – and with 10 precious votes to offer a government who only won a no-confidence vote because of them, it is clear they are more important to the home secretary than getting the legislation we need.”
The government’s confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP makes no mention of the party’s right “to barter away action to protect vulnerable victims of domestic violence or deny the human rights of the women of Northern Ireland”, the Walthamstow MP said.
“This is not about devolution, this is about dignity and the damage a government so desperate to cling to power can do.”
Meanwhile Creasy said the Domestic Abuse Bill must be changed to give migrant women assurances that their details will not be passed on to immigration enforcement if they report domestic abuse to the police.
“Without changes to this bill to clarify the status of these victims under immigration law we face a wasted opportunity to ensure every woman in the UK is protected from violence,” she added.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The landmark draft Domestic Abuse Bill we published last week will help transform the response to these horrific crimes and is aimed at supporting victims and their families and pursuing offenders.
“The provisions of the draft Bill extend to England and Wales only and there has been no change in the territorial application of the Bill.
“The Government has been clear that as abortion is devolved in Northern Ireland, any question of reform to law or policy is one for a devolved Executive and Assembly to debate and discuss.”