LISTEN: Sinn Fein should not 'prop up' anti-abortion cause, campaigner says

By Michael McHugh, PA.

Sinn Fein must not "prop up" an anti-abortion agenda, a campaigner in Northern Ireland said.

The party has tabled an amendment to a DUP motion on terminations relating to Down's syndrome which will be debated at Stormont's Assembly on Tuesday.

Abortion is available for women from Northern Ireland without restriction until the 12th week of pregnancy and subjected to more restrictions after that.

Amnesty International campaigner Grainne Teggart said: "This motion will change nothing legally but is a clear signal that the DUP wants to roll back the hard-won rights of women and girls.

"Sinn Fein and other parties must not prop up a dangerous anti-choice agenda, instead they should support human rights and show they're on the side of women.

"Women and girls are being failed and forgotten, left without vital abortion services, despite regulations coming into force two months ago."

Legislation was passed in Westminster liberalising the procedure.

It came into force in Northern Ireland in March and permits abortion on demand for the first 12 weeks and in more limited circumstances thereafter.

The DUP motion "welcomes the important intervention of disability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the imposition of abortion legislation which extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down syndrome."

Sinn Fein's amendment to the DUP motion: "Welcomes the important intervention of disability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the specific legislative provision in the abortion legislation which goes beyond fatal foetal abnormalities to include non-fatal disabilities, including Down syndrome."

Sinn Fein's Stormont Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said her party did not support the DUP's position.

She added: "It is our view that the DUP motion is an attempt to reject the entire abortion legislation and we will oppose that in the Assembly."

Michelle O'Neill

She said Sinn Fein backed modern and compassionate access to the procedure where a woman's life was in danger and other circumstances.

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster said: "We hope that we will get the support of colleagues across the Assembly tomorrow to deal with that issue so we can send a message to Westminster that we do not agree with the proposals that they are putting forward."

Arlene Foster

The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland reissued their call on members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to oppose new abortion regulations introduced by the Westminster.

Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin said they were unjust, extreme and inhumane.

"They go much further than the 1967 Abortion Act - imagine taking the life of an unborn child because the child has a cleft lip.

"These regulations offer no gestational limits for children with disabilities. Let's take a stand for the equal right to life and care for all children, before and after birth, as well as their mothers."

Aontu, an anti-abortion party, accused Sinn Fein of performing a U-turn on the issue.

Deputy leader Dr Anne McCloskey said: "It is good to hear they will support an amendment to make abortion on the grounds of disability illegal up to birth, unlike in Britain, where shockingly such lethal discrimination is lawful."

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