DUP tries to roll back abortion progress at NI, says O’Neill

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The DUP is trying to roll back legislation liberalizing abortion laws in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein Vice-President Michelle O’Neill said.

The big trade union party opposes the layoffs and has proposed a new law to prevent them from being carried out in the event of non-fatal disability.

Sinn Fein will ask Stormont ministers this week to set up abortion services two years after a law was passed allowing the procedure in Westminster while devolution was suspended.

Ms O’Neill said: “This is the end of the corner and an attempt to reopen a debate that has already taken place around the provision of health care for women.

“I am here to give a voice to these women who find themselves in incredibly difficult and very vulnerable circumstances. “

Ms O’Neill addressed the assembly in her role as a senior member of her party rather than deputy prime minister in a decentralized, five-party power-sharing administration that is divided on the issue.

She said the DUP and Ulster Unionist Health Minister Robin Swann were “abandoning” women by refusing to commission long-legislated services.

Ms. O’Neill added, “Women have a right to compassionate health care.

“It is a human right to have compassionate health care and should be at the center of the concerns of this assembly.”

Northern Ireland’s previously restrictive laws were changed by Westminster MPs in 2019 as the Stormont administration collapsed.

The laws allow abortion in all circumstances for up to 12 weeks.

Dismissals are allowed for up to 24 weeks when there is a risk to the physical or mental health of the woman.

There is no time limit in the event of a fatal fetal abnormality or a diagnosis of a severe physical or mental impairment that would result in severe disability.

Abortions after 24 weeks under these circumstances are extremely rare.

The DUP bill focuses on preventing dismissals in the event of disability.

It was debated in Stormont on Monday.

People with disabilities like Down syndrome should not be less worthy of being protected from abortion, the DUP said.

Senior member Paul Givan said: “This bill seeks to address the attitudes and myths that lead to the failure to provide high quality support and care.

He said discriminatory attitudes were still present, adding: “This is not something our assembly should tolerate.”

Individual health trusts have set up temporary pathways for early medical abortion, but Northern Ireland-wide services have yet to be commissioned by the Department of Health.

Mr Swann argued that as a contentious issue, it is up to the executive to agree to set up the services.

Mr Givan said the life expectancy for Down syndrome has increased to 50 or 60 years.

He slammed the 2019 legislation, saying, “It sends the message loud and clear that the lives of people with disabilities are less precious and deserve to be protected than the lives of people without disabilities. A law that promotes this reflection in 2021 is totally unacceptable. “

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