The motion was put forward by People Before Profit councillor Eamonn McCann.
A debate about abortion has highlighted the deep divisions within Derry City and Strabane District Council on the issue.
The discussion was held at the council's monthly meeting last night after a motion was put forward by People Before Profit councillor Eamonn McCann.
Cllr McCann's motion asked the council to note that March 31 will mark the first anniversary of the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 coming into effect.
The motion requested that the council call 'on the Minister for Health in the North to commission abortion services in the region, end the hypocritical practice of making England the place where NI abortions take place and start looking after women’s health here at home'.
During the debate on Cllr McCann's motion, a large number of councillors spoke about their views on abortion, with several highlighting how 'emotive' the subject was.
When the debate was over, the motion was put to a vote.
Nineteen councillors voted in favour of it, seventeen voted against the motion and three councillors abstained from the vote.
DUP councillors voted against the motion, while Sinn Fein councillors supported it.
Councillors representing the SDLP, which operates a policy of 'conscience vote' on abortion, were spilt on how they voted.
The councillors who supported the motion were: Michaela Boyle (Sinn Fein); Tina Burke (Sinn Fein); Micky Cooper (Sinn Fein); Gary Donnelly (Independent); Sandra Duffy (Sinn Fein); Rory Farrell (SDLP); Rachael Ferguson (Alliance); Paul Fleming (Sinn Fein); Paul Gallagher (Independent); Shaun Harkin (People Before Profit); Christopher Jackson (Sinn Fein); Dan Kelly (Sinn Fein); Patricia Logue (Sinn Fein); Eamonn McCann (People Before Profit); Kieran McGuire (Sinn Fein); Ruairi McHugh (Sinn Fein); Aileen Mellon (Sinn Fein); Martin Reilly (SDLP); and Brian Tierney (SDLP).
The councillors who voted against the motion were: Allan Bresland (DUP); Maurice Devenney (DUP); Derek Hussey (UUP); Keith Kerrigan (DUP); Hilary McClintock (DUP); Ryan McCready (DUP); David Ramsey (DUP); Graham Warke (DUP); Jason Barr (SDLP); Raymond Barr (Independent); John Boyle (SDLP); Sean Carr (Independent); Angela Dobbins (SDLP); Emmet Doyle (Aontu); Steven Edwards (SDLP); Jim McKeever (SDLP); and Sean Mooney (SDLP).
The councillors who abstained from voting were Darren Guy (UUP), Shauna Cusack (SDLP) and Philip McKinney (Alliance).
The debate can be viewed on the council's Youtube page at - https://bit.ly/37KZQ9x
The full text of Cllr McCann's motion was:
Council notes that:
- March 31st will mark the first anniversary of the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 coming into effect;
- the regulations are clear that abortion services should be available on request up to 12 weeks gestation and thereafter if two doctors agree that “the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman which is greater than if the pregnancy were terminated”. Despite this, no abortion services have been commissioned by the NI Department of Health;
- during the pandemic, when we were being advised to stay home, the Minister for Health and the NI Office advised women with unwanted pregnancies to travel to England if they needed an abortion.
Council acknowledges that this lack of commissioning of services is not what the available evidence suggests a majority of people of the North want; more than three out of four (77%) respondents to the NI Life & Times Survey agreed or strongly agreed that in sending women to England for abortion “We are just exporting our problems rather than dealing with them” while just under three out of four (71%) agreed/strongly agreed that “It is a woman's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion.”
Council therefore calls on the Minister for Health in the North to commission abortion services in the region, end the hypocritical practice of making England the place where NI abortions take place and start looking after women’s health here at home.
Council further calls on the Minister for Health to fully resource sexual and reproductive health services in the region to end the situation where, before COVID, people in the southern sector of the Western Trust could wait up to six months to access the most effective long-acting methods of contraception.
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