Unborn babies believed to have a disability are a step closer to being better protected from abortion in Northern Ireland after a Bill received backing from MLAs at Stormont.
The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill, brought by Paul Givan MLA, aims to outlaw abortion on the basis of so-called ‘severe’ disabilities, including conditions such as Down’s syndrome.
The Bill, which had the support of over 1,500 people with the condition and their families, passed its second stage by 48 votes to 12.
During the debate, Mr Givan said his Private Member’s Bill “tackles disability discrimination and how the law perpetuates stereotypes”.
He pointed out that the current abortion regulations permit “abortion up to term in the cases of non-fatal disabilities for conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, cleft palate and club foot”.
people with disabilities are equally valued
He said: “The support of many people in the medical profession for this bill speaks volumes for the positive attitude within our health service that they have in providing the best care for both families and pre-born children.”
Givan concluded by urging his fellow MLAs to send “a clear and unequivocal message that in Northern Ireland people with disabilities are equally valued”.
‘Realm of eugenics’
Arlene Foster, speaking as a backbencher rather than as First Minister, said she would use her voice “to stand up for women who believe in protecting those young people who have Down’s Syndrome and who have value in this society”.
She said: “This past year has taught us much about the fragility of life. No one’s life is less valuable, and this standard should apply to life inside and outside the womb.
“We are entering, I have to say, into the realm of eugenics ladies and gentlemen, and you can deny that all you like, but we’re on a very, very slippy slope.”
No one’s life is less valuable, and this standard should apply to life inside and outside the womb
The Bill will now go to the Committee stage, where it will be scrutinised further.
‘Abhorrent and discriminatory’
The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer Callum Webster said: “This Bill is the first step in a push back against the Abortion Regulations imposed on Northern Ireland last year. It’s good news that the Bill has passed its second reading with the backing of such a large majority of MLAs.
the many citizens who opposed the regulations are truly glad that initiatives are being taken to oppose these terrible provisions
“During the debate, opponents were complaining that the Bill would roll back abortion. But the many citizens who opposed the regulations are truly glad that initiatives are being taken to oppose these terrible provisions”.
He added: “The new law imposed on the Province by Westminster last year singles out babies deemed to have disabilities, and grants them fewer rights than other unborn children. They allow disabled babies to be aborted right up to birth. This is abhorrent and discriminatory and Paul Givan’s move to end this injustice is worthy of support.”
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