Sinn Fein to oppose vote to restrict abortions

Sinn Fein have pledged to oppose a vote at Stormont that seeks to restrict access to abortions. The amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, tabled by the DUP and SDLP, would make illegal abortions that are carried out outside of NHS institutions.

Sinn Fein have pledged to oppose a vote at Stormont that seeks to restrict access to abortions.

The amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, tabled by the DUP and SDLP, would make illegal abortions that are carried out outside of NHS institutions.

But Sinn Fein has all but caused it’s defeat before it is debated, pledging to join with Alliance and Green MLAs to trigger a voting mechanism known as a “petition of concern” that would require the amendment to achieve more than a simple majority in the Assembly.

Outlining the party’s concerns, Sinn Fein MLA Caitríona Ruane stated that whilst her party “is not in favour of abortion”, it remains concerned that the amendment as tabled would hamper the ability of a women whose life might be in danger to seek a termination.

She explained:

“Unfortunately this amendment, which was introduced at the last minute, is not about protecting women’s health, it is about undermining a pregnant women’s ability to receive emergency treatment in life threatening circumstances. That is why we will oppose the amendment. This is a view held not just by Sinn Féin but is one, which is shared by parties and individuals across the Assembly chamber.

“A cross party petition of concern has been submitted by Sinn Féin and MLAs from the Alliance and Green parties and this will be voted on in the Assembly tomorrow.

“We approach this complex issue with compassion and understanding and respect, conscious of strong and sincere views held on all sides and we hope that tomorrow’s debate will be conducted in this manner.”

Pro-life campaigner Bernadette Smyth, who founded the organisation Precious Life – which dubs itself  the “voice for the unborn child” – attacked the move as “an abuse of the democratic process”.

Speaking of the amendment, she went on to warn:

“We have elected our politicians here and we believe that it would be political suicide for Sinn Féin if they oppose this, it’s important that we debate this issue.”

On Friday justice minister and Alliance leader David Ford rejected the amendment, concluding that whilst the whole issue of regulating abortions needed to be looked at, last minute amendments was not the best way to handle it.

He explained:

“Tacking on a last-minute amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill is not the way to deal with this issue. It requires full consideration and consultation to ensure all viewpoints are aired and considered, especially from people directly impacted. That is one reason why I cannot support this amendment.”

Ford’s comments have been rebuffed however by the DUP health minister Edwin Poots, who last week published  a 30 page draft document to executive colleagues on abortion guidelines with proposals such as two doctors rather than one  being needed to make an assessment in cases of potential abortion.

In giving his support to the amendment, Poots explained:

“As Health Minister, let me be clear the best place for vulnerable woman and unborn children in life threatening circumstances, both physically and mentally, is in a hospital within the NHS where the ability to pay for care has no place. Nobody with any semblance of moral fibre would argue otherwise.”

He continued by saying that the vote today would be “a simple choice between putting the interests of mother and children first by providing the best healthcare free at the point of need within the NHS; or supporting unregulated and unaccountable private clinics, which actively campaign for abortion on demand, making financial gain from human tragedy”.

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