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Disability abortion bill unlikely to proceed further following vote on wrecking amendments
The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill is unlikely to proceed further at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
A group of MLAs who oppose the proposed change in the law tabled two wrecking amendments to the Bill. The votes on these wrecking amendments passed by 45 to 43. This means that the Bill will be unlikely to proceed further at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The loss today follows the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill passing Committee Stage at the Northern Ireland Assembly, after 99% of the 9,125 submissions to a Northern Ireland Committee for Health consultation on the Bill supported the proposed law change.
Currently, abortion is legal under the Northern Ireland regulations right up to birth, based solely on a primary diagnosis of disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate, cleft lip or club foot. The Bill would have amended the Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 to prevent abortions up to full term on the grounds of non-fatal disability, thereby recognising those with disabilities as equally valued.
Earlier in the year, an open letter was signed by 1,608 people with Down’s syndrome and their families urging the Assembly to vote in favour of the bill, with a further 26,000 members of the public signing a petition to party leaders.
In 2020, the British Government imposed a new abortion regime on Northern Ireland, which includes a provision that legalised abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot. Following Heidi Crowter’s call in 2020 for Stormont to do everything they could to oppose abortion on the basis of disability up to birth, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion opposing the extreme regulations being imposed on Northern Ireland. Across the two votes held, 75 out of 90 MLAs voted against the provisions and regulations.
Lynn Murray, spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out and mother of Rachel who has Down’s syndrome, said:
“As a mother of a daughter with Down’s syndrome, it is devastating to see that this important piece of legislation is unlikely to proceed further at Stormont.
There has been overwhelming public support for this law change with an incredible 99.6% of the 9,125 submissions to the Northern Ireland Committee for Health consultation on the Bill supporting this important law change.
Simply, by removing a small discriminatory clause, this Bill provided an opportunity to sever the connection between congenital disability and abortion, signalling a greater acceptance of people such as those who have Down’s syndrome.
While we are very disappointed about today’s vote, this is just one of many fronts that our community are seeking change on and this will only serve to further motivate us to work even harder to ensure we build a UK where people with Down’s syndrome are equally valued.”
- For more information on the Don’t Screen Us Out campaign, see our website www.dontscreenusout.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- For interviews, contact Don’t Screen Us Out spokesperson Lynn Murray on 0784 0966 736 or email email@example.com
- The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill Committee for Health consultation submission analysis is available here.