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Abortion in Northern Ireland: Could May step in?

By Laura Bundock, political correspondent
When it comes to abortion laws in Northern Ireland Theresa May, has to choose her words carefully.
Her fall-back position - simply to state it is a devolved issue, not one for Westminster. But speaking to journalists on a plane to Canada, there is a subtle but significant shift in her response.The PM's language seems to be softening.
Abortion in Northern Ireland: Could May step in?

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The PM entered a deal with the DUP after failing to win a majority
"Look, I believe that a woman should be able to access safe, legal abortion," she said."Obviously there are a variety of views on this issue, that's why it is dealt with as a matter of conscience when we have these debates in the House of Commons and there was some very moving testimony given by MPs across the House the other day in the debate that took place on this particular issue."And she makes it clear - if MPs force a vote in the Commons, she won't obstruct them."Obviously in the House of Commons any votes on abortion are always because it's a conscience issue and always and will continue to be treated as a free vote," the prime minister said.So does this change anything? Well, Theresa May can't escape the slow-growing political momentum.
Abortion in Northern Ireland: Could May step in?

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Abortion in NI: PM stuck between Tories and DUP
We've had the Irish referendum result, we've had nearly 18 months with Stormont suspended, and we've had a Supreme Court ruling which saw a majority of top judges agree abortion laws in Northern Ireland were "incompatible" with human rights law.
Labour's Stella Creasy once more brought the issue to parliament, calling on the Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley to intervene.The debate saw Mrs May's own MPs question how long she can hold the "it's a devolved issue" line. Conservative Crispin Blunt asked: "How long is it reasonable for us to be waiting in parliament before we begin exercising our responsibility to the citizens of Northern Ireland?"The prime minister acknowledges "the best way and my preferred option is for it to be dealt with and addressed by those people who are elected politicians in and elected as accountable politicians in Northern Ireland".
Abortion in Northern Ireland: Could May step in?

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'Disenfranchised' back DUP over abortion
But it is not simple. Mrs May relies on the support of the DUP, which remains opposed to abortion reform. And more pressingly, she cannot afford to fall out with the DUP before the EU Withdrawal Bill votes next week.And that is what grates with many MPs. Labour's Rupa Huq accused the PM of selling women out. "Clearly Theresa May would rather continue her grubby little deal with the DUP rather than improve the lives of women," she said.Mrs May would not like this assessment - another attack on her feminist credentials.
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She knows this is a divisive and delicate debate, one requiring very careful handling.But in the absence of an assembly, if power-sharing is not restored soon, the prime minister does seem to be signalling Westminster could step in.
news.sky.com
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