Pro-lifers have expressed a guarded welcome to a new consultation on abortion laws in Northern Ireland (NI).
The consultation has been released by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and is the latest in a long-running legal battle over the issue.
And while SPUC, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, is pleased at the release of the consultation, it warned the new guidance must not undermine NI’s abortion laws.
Liam Gibson, from SPUC in NI, said that in light of “the health department’s record on this matter”, SPUC will be “looking at its proposals very closely”.
He continued: “In the past health officials have largely ignored the submissions from the pro-life doctors and lawyers and the pro-life movement in general.
“They appeared to be more interested in widening the scope for abortion in Northern Ireland.
“As a result they produced guidance which was fatally flawed.”
The department of health was forced to withdraw its abortion guidance earlier this month in the face of a legal challenge from SPUC.
A court had previously ruled that the guidance was “misleading”.
Abortion is illegal in NI unless the mother’s life is at risk.
Last month it was revealed that Prime Minister David Cameron continues to support lowering the abortion time limit in England, Wales and Scotland from 24 weeks of pregnancy.
A Number 10 spokesman confirmed that the Prime Minister, who has previously expressed a wish to reduce the limit, remains in favour of a reduction.
The spokesman said: “While there are no Government plans to change the current limit, in the event that there was a private members’ bill, the Prime Minister’s personal view is that a moderate reduction in the limit would be desirable.”
But Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has previously voted against any such reduction.