Unborn babies believed to have a disability are another step closer to being better protected from abortion in Northern Ireland after a Bill passed Committee Stage at Stormont.
The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill passed by a vote of 3-2 and now proceeds to the Consideration Stage.
The Bill aims to outlaw abortion on the basis of so-called ‘severe’ disabilities, including conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate and club foot.
The Committee came to its decision after hearing evidence from multiple organisations and individuals, including Heidi Crowter, who continues her fight against discriminatory abortion law.
The Bill recieved overwhelming support from the public, with 99 per cent of the 9,125 submissions to a consultation on the Bill in favour of the legislation.
Under current legislation, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons but is available at full-term for children deemed to have a ‘severely life-limiting condition’ – including Down’s syndrome.
Speaking after the decision, Crowter said she was “happy”, adding that the Bill “will move on to the next stage and I will keep talking about this to everyone, and help where I can, because the law as it is, is downright discrimination”.
She was joined by Professor John Wyatt of University College London, who said: “As a doctor who has cared for many newborn babies and older children with disabilities, I strongly support this Bill.
“It is absolutely right that the law recognises that an unborn baby with a non-fatal disability deserves the same protection as an unborn baby without a disability.
“We should be a society which welcomes and celebrates the lives of children with disabilities rather than exposing them to the threat of abortion.”
The Bill was introduced by Paul Givan MLA before he became First Minister. It is now sponsored by Christopher Stalford MLA.
Watch Paul and Heidi speaking to The Christian Institute about the Bill earlier this year: