The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted to reject a Westminster law which forced a liberal abortion regime onto the Province.
MPs voted in July last year to impose the changes – the most liberal abortion law in the UK – which officially came into effect at the end of March. But MLAs yesterday voted in favour of a motion to reject them by 46 votes to 40.
The result does not directly change the law, but makes clear to Westminster politicians that the new regulations are not wanted by Northern Ireland’s elected representatives.
The motion, brought by the DUP, “rejects the imposition of abortion legislation which extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down syndrome”.
A Sinn Fein amendment – which sought only to reject specifically the provision of abortion on the basis of disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate and club foot – was voted down.
MPs and Peers are due to vote on the regulations for the final time later this month.
If the regulations are voted down in Westminster, the Government will be forced to either redraft or revoke them.
Several MLAs spoke out against the Westminster regulations during the debate.
DUP MLA Pam Cameron said the regulations send a clear message “that human beings with Down’s syndrome or other non-fatal disabilities are worthy of less protection in law because they are less worthwhile and less valuable.
“That is the ethic of a eugenic society that I, for one, have no desire to be a part of.”
Rosemary Barton of the UUP said: “Everyone has a right to life; those who are disabled and those who are not must be treated and valued equally. All life is sacred.”
The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer Callum Webster welcomed the result.
He said: “It is encouraging that a majority of MLAs have rejected the imposition of laws that allow the abortion of disabled babies. Every life is precious and deserves to be protected in law.
“MLAs have sent a clear signal to Westminster not to impose these far-reaching abortion measures on Northern Ireland. MPs and Peers in London must respect what our locally-elected politicians have determined.”