LONDON, May 27 (Xinhua) -- The result of the referendum in Ireland to liberalize the country's strict abortion laws could cause a major headache for British Prime Minister Theresa May, it was reported Sunday.
Around two thirds of voters in the Irish Republic backed the move to leave the strict anti-abortion laws in place in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
Abortion rules on Britain's mainland have been relaxed for many years, but across the Irish Sea it is a devolved decision for Northern Ireland's own lawmakers.
The Sunday Times reported Sunday that May is facing open revolt from senior women in her own Conservative party over abortion after Ireland's historic vote to lift a ban on terminations.
Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister in May's government, and four of her predecessors have urged the prime minister to allow a free vote in the Westminster parliament to reform Northern Ireland's "draconian abortion laws".
Mordaunt said the landslide victory to legalize abortion in the Irish referendum should now bring change north of the border.
The dilemma for May is that her minority government at Westminster is shored by the 10 MPs belonging to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which opposes relaxing abortion laws.
The Sunday Times says 10 Downing Street fears Mordaunt's call could destabilize the government by antagonizing the socially conservative DUP which May depends on for a majority in the House of Commons.
DUP MP Ian Paisley, meanwhile, said Northern Ireland should not be bullied into accepting abortion on demand.
"The settled will of the people has been to afford protections to the unborn life and protect the life of the mother," he said.
Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, chair of the House of Commons health select committee, said she would vote to support an extension of abortion rights to all women across the whole of Britain.
Wollaston said if an amendment is not accepted by the Speaker of the House of Commons there should at very least be a referendum in Northern Ireland on this issue.
Northern Ireland has some of the toughest abortion laws in the western world with even rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality not considered legal grounds for a termination. Abortions are currently only legal in Northern Ireland if the life or mental health of the mother is at risk.
"Every day three women travel from Northern Ireland to England for abortion care or resort to illegal online medication, risking life imprisonment. The United Nations has said this violates their human rights," the Sunday Times reported.
Media reports say Karen Bradley, the Northern Ireland secretary in May's government, has insisted abortion law is a "devolved matter" and ruled out a free vote among Westminster MPs.
London Labour MP Stella Creasy said more than 140 parliamentarians at Westminster had already signaled support for an effort to change the abortion law in Northern Ireland. Creasy, who led a campaign to allow Northern Irish women to access NHS terminations for free in England, said: "21st century abortion laws should be extended across the British Isles."
A forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill expected to be debated at Westminster could be used as a vehicle for MPs to change the law in Northern Ireland where the devolved government has been suspended for more than a year.
Political commentators say such a move could cause a major headache for May who desperately needs the support of the DUP as she navigates her Brexit bill through parliament.