Abortion: Assembly rejects recent changes to NI laws

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The NI Assembly has voted to pass a motion to reject recent changes to abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

New abortion regulations drawn up by Westminster came into force in March after a vote in 2019.

The motion, brought by the DUP, passed by 46 votes to 40.

The vote has no effect on the laws but the DUP said it would send a message to Westminster that the regulations are not supported by Stormont.

A Sinn Féin amendment, which sought to alter the motion to only restrict access to abortions in cases of severe fetal impairments, such as Down’s syndrome, was voted down.

DUP assembly member Paul Givan said Northern Ireland had been “treated with contempt” by the British government and urged all members to support the motion.

The party has said it wants to overturn the abortion laws and that Stormont should be able to create new legislation.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw accused the DUP and Sinn Féin of “playing politics” with a sensitive matter.

“They are trying to imply that any MLA that does support them does not care about children born with a disability, nothing could be further from the truth,” she added.

Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan said his party’s position on abortion was clear since it voted to change its stance in 2018.

Independent unionist MLA and former Justice Minister Claire Sugden questioned why the DUP did not act to prevent Westminster taking control of the matter in 2019.

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Sinn Féin voted to change party policy at a conference in Belfast in 2018

First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster criticised those comments as “very unfair.”

“We have been consistently in favour of a pro-life position so it’s wrong for the member to do that,” she added.

The SDLP, UUP and Alliance Party view abortion as a matter of conscience so it is up to individual MLAs how they vote on the issue.

Dolores Kelly of the SDLP welcomed the motion, but her party colleague Matthew O’Toole said he would oppose it.


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