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DUP motion on abortion passed by Northern Ireland Assembly

The motion doesn’t impact or change Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation.

Pro-choice campaigners outside Stormont last year.
Pro-choice campaigners outside Stormont last year.
Image: Niall Carson

THE NORTHERN IRISH Assembly has passed a DUP motion relating to the North’s abortion law that came into force in March.

Today’s vote was on a motion – meaning that it cannot change laws, but only indicate support for or against a particular issue. The result does not change abortion legislation in the North. 

The motion read: 

That this Assembly welcomes the important intervention of disability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the imposition of abortion legislation which extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down’s syndrome.

Heidi Crowter is a Down’s syndrome advocate, who has called the abortion laws “hurtful” and “discriminatory”, as they allow for abortion in cases of non-fatal disabilities, including Down’s syndrome.

A Sinn Féin Assembly amendment calling for abortion regulations to be amended to prevent terminations at any time in pregnancy in cases of non-fatal disabilities, including Down’s Syndrome, was defeated.

Sinn Fein had sought to amend a DUP motion that calls for a more general rejection of the abortion regulations introduced in Northern Ireland as a result of a vote by MPs in Westminster last year.

The Sinn Fein amendment was defeated 32 votes to 52. Three MLAs voted in both lobbies, meaning their votes were not counted.

The DUP motion was carried by 46 votes to 40. One MLA voted in both lobbies.

Pro-choice campaigners criticised the position of Sinn Féin in the debate. Earlier, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Twitter that they would be voting against the DUP’s motion:

“Sinn Féin opposes and will vote against the DUP motion this evening. Sinn Féin actively supported Repeal The 8th and the subsequent legislation.

“Sinn Féin wants those same rights secured for women in the South to be delivered in the North. Nobody left behind.”

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The result was praised by DUP politicians this evening, who called on the abortion regulations to be removed from Northern Ireland. 

MLA Paul Girvan said: “The Assembly has now rejected these extreme abortion regulations on the basis of how they discriminate against the unborn especially those with disabilities.  The regulations cannot be amended, therefore must be withdrawn.”

“This approach undermined the devolution settlement, but worst of all facilitated the ending of so many precious lives. That is something that the majority of people here in Northern Ireland are against,” he said. 

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha and Dominic McGrath

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