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Down syndrome girl abortion Pixabay.jpg
World News

Bill to protect foetuses with severe impairment from late term abortion passes stage in Northern Ireland

A Bill to allow those with a severe foetal impairment to have the same rights to live as others has passed a Committee stage at the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

The Bill would make it illegal to have an abortion up until birth in cases of diagnoses in the womb of non-life threatening disabilities such as Down's syndrome, club foot or cleft lip. 

1,608 people with Down's syndrome and their families signed an open letter to party leaders in Northern Ireland urging them to support the Bill. It has been supported by campaigners such as Heidi Crowter, who took the same issue to the Supreme Court this year. 

Heidi Crowter by Hannah McKay / Reuters

The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill was scrutinised by the Health Committee at Stormont, the third stage of the process to becoming law, and passed 3-2 in the group which has nine members but four abstained. 

The DUP and UUP voted for the bill, People Before Profit and Alliance opposed the bill whilst members of Sinn Féin and SDLP abstained. 

Sinn Fein MLA Deidre Hargey said: "It is clear that this debate is an attempt by the DUP to distract from the fact that women are still being denied the compassionate healthcare services that were promised with the introduction of legislation over a year ago. One year on, women are still being failed. Whilst there is deliberate blocking of attempts emanating from the legislation to commission modern and compassionate healthcare services for women, the DUP is also intent on unpicking the legislation."

The Bill was initially sponsored by Paul Givan MLA, a Christian DUP politician, but after he became First Minister of Northern Ireland, sponsorship transferred to Mr Christopher Stalford MLA.

When discussing it during Stage Two in March, SDLP's Sinéad Bradley said: 

"The crux of the matter is that current legislation profiles and separates children based on their having or not having a disability. Surely, that is the very definition of discrimination, discrimination that is, unless we change it, legislated for and delivered in a calculated and targeted way. We cannot claim to be supporters of the Disability Discrimination Act yet ignore this blatant breach of the principles in the current abortion regulations."

It will now go on to the Consideration Stage.

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