DUP proposes major changes to Northern Ireland abortion law

DUP proposes major changes to Northern Ireland abortion law

THE DUP is looking to make alterations to abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

A private members bill will be launched at Stormont to try and repeal a specific provision within the region's recently liberated abortion regulations.

It will attempt to prevent terminations being carried out in cases of non-fatal disabilities.

Current laws state that there is no time limit for terminations when there is a "substantial risk" that a foetus would suffer a severe mental or physical impairment.

Some campaigners argue that the law wrongly allows abortions without time limits for conditions such as Down's syndrome.

The bill is being tabled by Democratic Unionist Assembly member Paul Givan, and is backed by disability rights campaign group Don't Screen Us Out.

It represents the very first legislative attempt since devolution was restored in Northern Ireland to amend abortion laws introduced by the British government.

Mr Givan says the legislation is about removing discrimination against people with disabilities.

"This is an opportunity for people to come together and fight a prejudicial, discriminatory piece of legislation," he said.

"We have introduced laws called the Disability Act of 1995 and we have built up that to place duties on public authorities and support people with disabilities.

"I believe that those rights, and these are human rights, ought to be conferred upon people before they are born and that is what this campaign is going to be about.

"I believe there is a majority of assembly members that agree with this, as does the majority of the public."

In the Republic, abortions are allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, but this doesn't apply for conditions such as Down's syndrome.

In July 2019, MPs voted to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland, and the new laws came into effect last March.

It made terminations legal in all circumstances within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

A 24-week limit would apply in situations where a pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the woman's physical or mental health.

But no limit was set in cases of fatal foetus abnormality, or where there is substantial risk that the foetus would die or would suffer a severe mental or physical impairment.