The DUP is trying to restrict the recently liberalized abortion laws in Northern Ireland, which allow for severe non-fatal disabilities to be terminated until childbirth.
The private member’s bill to repeal the specific provision in the region’s abortion regulations was tabled by Democratic Union Assembly member Paul Given.
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During an assembly debate last year, a majority of members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) voted against the special section of the law that allows late-stage abortion when diagnosed with severe disability.
Mr Givan’s move is supported by the disability rights campaign group Don’t Screen Us Out, which claims the law is discriminatory and allows abortions with no time limit for conditions like Down syndrome or cleft palate.
A well-known activist involved in the campaign is Heidi Crowter, who has Down syndrome.
Heidi Crowter, who suffers from Down syndrome, takes action against the British government against part of the abortion law of 1967 (Photo: JerseyroadPR / PA).
Ms. Crowter is also taking separate action against the UK Government against a similar element of the 1967 Abortion Act that applies in the UK.
The bill would not affect the legal requirements that allow abortions until birth for fatal fetal abnormalities where babies are not expected to survive outside the womb.
Northern Ireland’s previously restrictive abortion laws were changed by MPs in Westminster in 2019 when the Stormont government collapsed.
The law allows abortion in all circumstances for up to 12 weeks. Terminations of up to 24 weeks are permitted if there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman.
This woman tweeted her trip from Northern Ireland to Liverpool for an abortion
There is no time limit for fatal fetal abnormalities or when a diagnosis of severe physical or mental impairment that would cause severe disability has been made.
Mr Givan’s bill is the first legislative attempt since the restoration of decentralization in Northern Ireland to change the abortion laws introduced by the UK government.
Invoice from a private member
“The current law tells people with disabilities that they are worth less than other people, that their contribution is less valuable, that their life is less important and less full,” he said.
“It invites us to see people with disabilities as less worthy of protection.
Member of the Democratic Unionist Assembly Paul Givan (Photo: JerseyroadPR / PA)
“The idea that Down syndrome is a big problem that abortion should address is terrifying.
“You don’t have to look far to see the full lives of people with disabilities – they enrich our communities and families.”
The bill amending Section 7 of the Northern Ireland Abortion Ordinance (No. 2) 2020 is due to be presented at the floor of the congregation by Mr Givan today.
This first reading stage is procedural and only takes a few minutes.
Additional coverage from PA Media.