Sinn Féin to press Stormont ministers to commission NI abortion services

ireland
Sinn Féin To Press Stormont Ministers To Commission Ni Abortion Services
Stormont, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Michael McHugh, PA

Sinn Féin will next week formally ask Stormont ministers to commission abortion services in Northern Ireland.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald accused the DUP and Ulster Unionists of blocking the change – two years after legislation was passed at Westminster.

The issue sharply divides political and community opinion and is set to be raised at an Executive meeting.

Women in the north are legally entitled to modern and compassionate healthcare

Ms McDonald said: “Legislation was passed in March 2019, following a widespread public campaign where we heard the real experiences and real lives of women and their families.

“Women in the north are legally entitled to modern and compassionate healthcare and it is totally unacceptable that two years on the Health Minister has not commissioned services.

“The refusal to act has been particularly difficult for women during the pandemic and has put women’s health at risk.”

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Individual health trusts have set up temporary early medical abortion pathways but Northern Ireland-wide services have not yet been commissioned by the Department of Health.

Deirdre Hargey will bring the proposal to the Executive (Rebecca Black/PA).

Health Minister Robin Swann has argued that, as a controversial issue, it is for the Executive to agree to set up the services.

The DUP is opposed to abortion and has proposed a new law to prevent them being carried out in cases of non-fatal disabilities.

Ms McDonald added: “Sinn Féin (Communities) Minister Deirdre Hargey is bringing forward a proposal to the Executive next week to ensure services are delivered to allow women access to proper healthcare in the north.”

Northern Ireland’s previously restrictive laws were changed by MPs at Westminster in 2019 at a time when the Stormont administration was collapsed.

The laws allow abortion in all circumstances up to 12 weeks. Terminations are permitted up to 24 weeks when there is a risk to the woman’s physical or mental health.

There is no time limit in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or when there has been a diagnosis of a serious physical or mental impairment that would cause a serious disability.

Abortions post 24 weeks in those circumstances are extremely rare.

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