The Northern Ireland (NI) Assembly has voted to pass a motion to reject recent changes to abortion laws in Northern Ireland.
The new abortion regulations, drawn up by Westminster while Stormont was not sitting, came into force in March after a vote in 2019. The motion, brought by the DUP, passed by 46 votes to 40.
Although the vote has no effect on the laws, the DUP said it would send a message to Westminster that the regulations are not supported by Stormont.
DUP assembly member Paul Givan said NI had been ‘treated with contempt’ by the British government.
According to reports from the BBC, an amendment by Sinn Féin, which sought to alter the motion to only restrict access to abortions in cases of severe foetal impairments, such as Down’s Syndrome, was also voted down.
More than 70 MLAs out of 90 voted to reject abortion on the basis of non-fatal disabilities like Down’s Syndrome between 24 weeks and birth.
Disability campaigner Heidi Crowter, who has Down’s Syndrome, expressed joy at the decision. In a statement, she said, ‘I would like to say thank you for voting for equality for disabled babies in the womb. It makes me feel overjoyed and proud of myself that my campaigning helped and inspired the MLA.
‘I listened to the debate and was delighted with the vote. I would now call on the government not to ask MPs and Peers to vote for Regulations that contain discriminatory provisions that tell people like me that we should not exist.
‘I am looking forward to helping Carla Lockhart and other MPs and members of the House of Lords when they soon debate these discriminatory regulations.’
Local mother Nicola Woods, mother to seven-year-old Daniel, who has Down’s Syndrome, said, ‘It is great news that our elected representatives here in Northern Ireland have spoken up for the rights of the unborn with disabilities.’
Meanwhile, a cross-party group of MPs from the three largest parties in Westminster tabled a new bill which seeks an end to late terminations on the grounds that an unborn baby has cleft palate, cleft lip, or club foot.
The Abortion (Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate and Club Foot) Bill is designed to change the existing law on abortion in England and Wales to clarify there are no grounds for abortion for easily correctable conditions.