09 Dec 2021

SDLP and Sinn Féin MLAs abstain from voting on First Minister’s latest abortion bill 

SDLP and Sinn Féin MLAs abstain from voting on First Minister’s latest abortion bill 

SDLP and Sinn Féin MLAs abstain from latest vote and receive backlash from advocates from both pro-choice and pro-life advocates

Members of the Northern Ireland Committee for Health voted at Assembly today on First Minister Paul Givan’s latest abortion bill at Committee level. 

The bill, known as the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill, divided opinions within the Committee.

DUP, alongside UUP, voted for the bill, People Before Profit and Alliance opposed the bill whilst members of Sinn Féin and SDLP abstained from the vote. 

The bill, if passed, will enforce that women will need to terminate their pregnancies before 24 weeks. 

The bill seeks to remove abortion in cases of any severe impairment which include a wide-range of complex abnormalities.

MLA’S Colm Gildernew, Órlaithí Flynn, Carál Ní Chuilín and Colin McGrath all abstained their vote with regards to First Minister Paul Givan’s new abortion bill. 

Councillor Fiona Ferguson, an advocate for pro-choice, said: “Women in the North have been failed by Sinn Féin and the SDLP once again refusing to defend our rights when under attack from the DUP.  

“In today's Stormont Health Committee, both parties abstained on a vote for the Committee to support Givan's anti-choice Bill. 

“There are clear medical reasons for any party to oppose this Bill regardless of your stance on abortion.” 

Councillor Emmet Doyle, a pro-life supporter, said: “Today’s abstention on the clause-by-clause  deliberations at the Health Committee by the SDLP and Sinn Fein demonstrates their two-faced panic on the issue of the right to life.   

“Next week no doubt they will bend over backwards to support abortion.  People are not fooled and will remember this for a long time to come.” 

People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin said: "The Stormont Executive has pointblank failed on its responsibility to ensure access to abortion services are made available across the North.

"Disgracefully, the DUP's anti-choice Bill received support from the Stormont Health Committee. This happened because Sinn Féin and the SDLP both abstained on this crucial vote instead of voting against as People Before Profit did.

"The failure to challenge the DUP is a huge letdown for everyone who has campaigned for the right to choose across Ireland. 

"The fact Sinn Féin and the SDLP greenlighted the DUP's reactionary campaign against the right to choose on the second anniversary of the decriminalisation of abortion in the North, only adds to the sense of shock and betrayal many people feel. 

"It's clear Sinn Féin and the SDLP can't be trusted to stand up to the DUP for equality, for women's rights and for basic access to health care. They have shown once again they are willing to sacrifice equality and civil rights to appease the DUP's reactionary agenda."

Expressing their concerns, Doctors for Choice Northern Ireland, NI clinicians campaigning for UK wide decriminalisation and provision of safe, legal abortion in Northern Ireland, tweeted: “Beyond disappointed with Sinn Féin and SDLP abstaining on Givan’s Bill at Health Committee stage enabling its passage.” 

Alliance for Choice Derry added: “Imagine abstaining on an issue that goes against all medical and expert opinion.  
“This is an insult to our medical professionals and to people who can get pregnant across the North. We are heartbroken.” 

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