Join Donate

Northern Ireland Assembly votes pro-choice for first time ever as Anti-Abortion Bill defeated

Yesterday, members of the Northern Ireland Assembly voted in favour of abortion rights for the first time ever. They did so in defeating a Bill designed to restrict access to abortion. The Severe Foetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill, a private members’ bill brought forward by DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, sought to restrict access to abortion after 24 weeks’ gestation in cases where a non-fatal defect is detected in the foetus, regardless of its serverity or impact upon the quality of life. It was narrowly voted down by 45 votes to 43.

Speaking on the vote, Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said it is ‘a significant day for trusting women… This is the first time the devolved legislature in Northern Ireland has voted clearly in favour of the woman’s right to choose, recognising pregnant women in conjunction with health professionals are the best people to determine whether and how to proceed with pregnancy.’

Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland last year. The new legislation should have also led to the rollout of services. But disagreements between the five parties that make up the Executive meant that services have not been centrally commissioned by the Department of Health. Some individual health trusts have provided services. But without any dedicated funding for this, the result has been that many women in Northern Ireland have been left without the services to which they are legally entitled. In July, the UK Government used its powers to order the Northern Ireland Executive to commission abortion services, which is now expected to happen in the first half of 2022.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented: 

‘We are delighted that Stormont has for the first time voted in favour of recognising the right to choose. In doing so, it has recognised that when it comes to making the painful and difficult medical decisions surrounding abnormalities in pregnancy, it is for that individual and their doctor, not politicians in Stormont, to decide what is the right course of action.

‘This vote also highlights that there has been a seachange in attitudes towards abortion in Northern Ireland. The policy of delay and obstruction by anti-choice MLAs in Stormont is no longer sustainable.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd@humanists.uk or phone 07918 975795.

Read more about the defeat of this Bill.

Read the Severe Foetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill.

Read more about our work on abortion.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Search Humanists UK