NI politicians vote against abortion protections for disabled babies

MLAs have voted against protecting children diagnosed with a disability in the womb from late abortion.

The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill sought to remove a clause which allows unborn children with conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft palate and club foot to be aborted after the 24-week limit that applies in most other cases.

The Bill was tabled by Paul Givan in February before he was named First Minister, and had previously been well supported. But after wrecking amendments were tabled at Consideration Stage, MLAs voted by 45 votes to 42 to abandon the life-saving change.

‘Every life must be valued’

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford expressed his concern at the stance of the Assembly, stating: “The bill would have made it illegal to abort a baby right up to birth (40+ weeks) for disabilities such as Down’s syndrome, club foot or cleft lip”.

“That MLAs rejected this, is deeply worrying and sends an awful message about the value the Northern Ireland Assembly places on the life of an unborn disabled child.”

But Mr Stalford added that it was “not the end of the road”, adding: “We will continue to advocate for the policies which encourage the preservation of life.”

an awful message about the value the Northern Ireland Assembly places on the life of an unborn disabled child

‘Deeply disappointing’

The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer Callum Webster said the result of the vote is “deeply disappointing” as the proposals “could have given protections to the most vulnerable children in our society”.

“This sends out the very sad signal to children with conditions such as Down’s syndrome, club foot and cleft palate that their lives are not worth living and that they should be aborted right up to birth.

“It’s deeply tragic that 45 MLAs have seen fit to send out that message.”

Mr Webster expressed his thanks to the MLAs who supported the Bill, and all those “who campaigned to extend legal protections to unborn children with non-fatal disabilities”.

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‘Overwhelming public support’

Lynn Murray, spokesperson for Don’t Screen Us Out, said: “As a mother of a daughter with Down’s syndrome, it is devastating to see that this important piece of legislation is unlikely to proceed further at Stormont.

“There has been overwhelming public support for this law change with an incredible 99.6% of the 9,125 submissions to the Northern Ireland Committee for Health consultation on the Bill supporting this important law change.

“Simply, by removing a small discriminatory clause, this Bill provided an opportunity to sever the connection between congenital disability and abortion, signalling a greater acceptance of people such as those who have Down’s syndrome.

“While we are very disappointed about today’s vote, this is just one of many fronts that our community are seeking change on and this will only serve to further motivate us to work even harder to ensure we build a UK where people with Down’s syndrome are equally valued.”


Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Northern Irish pro-life group Both Lives Matter, said: “We were shocked that by just a small majority, the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill was stopped.

“But we remain hopeful and for the future we would like to see three things: the restoration of those lost protections, that protect against disability discrimination pre-birth; we want to see the demand for abortion based on disability reduced, and that requires society to answer to the stigma and shame that there is around disability; but also to address the needs in the area of services.

“We want to provide the women and families, those living with disability, with the support they need to live and thrive, and to give them the best possible outcome for them and their families, regardless of disability.”

Also see:

Downs girl

NI disability abortion Bill advances

NI disability abortion Bill takes first step towards becoming law

1,500 call on Stormont to protect babies with Down’s syndrome from abortion

New Bill aims to end disability abortion in NI

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