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Sinn Féin to oppose DUP's motion against abortion in cases of non-fatal disabilities

The motion “rejects the imposition of abortion legislation which extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down’s syndrome”.

The Edward Carson statue at the grounds of Stormont Parliament buildings in Belfast.
The Edward Carson statue at the grounds of Stormont Parliament buildings in Belfast.
Image: Niall Carson via PA

SINN FÉIN IS to vote against a motion to be put forward by the DUP this evening, relating to abortion laws that came into force in March of this year.

Today’s vote is a motion – meaning that it cannot change laws, but only indicate support for or against a particular issue. 

The motion reads:

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.

Crowter said: “Boris Johnson’s government did not have to introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome up to birth to Northern Ireland. They chose to do this.

“That’s both hurtful and offensive. My life has as much value as anyone else’s.

“I am asking all MLA’s (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to reject Westminster’s regulations – please don’t vote for more discrimination against people like me.” 

Westminster liberalised Northern Ireland’s abortion laws to bring them in line with the rest of the UK, in the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive that had collapsed over 3 years ago.

The DUP were against the North’s abortion laws being liberalised, while Sinn Féin supported the laws being brought in line with both Ireland and the UK. 

Sinn Féin 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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DUP East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting, who tabled the motion alongside colleagues, said:

“Heidi has written to all MLAs outlining how offensive the abortion regulations, imposed by Westminster, are to people with disabilities. Heidi was born with Down’s syndrome. These abortion regulations discriminate against people with disabilities.

It is not right that an abortion can be legal up to full term just because the baby has Down’s syndrome. That sends an awful message to every child with Down’s in Northern Ireland.

“We want to value every life and ensure there is the support within our health and social care for women in crisis pregnancies.

“These regulations are extreme. The most extreme in the British Isles. They should not have been rushed through Westminster but should have been a matter for the devolved administration.”

- with reporting from the Press Association

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