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New bill DUP to introduce bill to change abortion laws in Northern Ireland

The abortion law in Northern Ireland was changed in 2019 when MPs in Westminster voted to decriminalise abortion.

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Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast (Peter Morrison/PA)

The DUP are set to propose a new law which will prevent abortions unless the unborn child is expected to be born with a fatal disability.

The abortion law in Northern Ireland was changed in 2019 when MPs in Westminster voted to decriminalise abortion.

MPs were able to bring in the new laws because Stormont had broken down at the time due to the butting of heads between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

The legislation made abortion legal in all circumstances as long as it is within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. That was extended to 24 weeks if there is a thought there would be a risk of injury to the mother's health.

The DUP says it wants to change the law to protect unborn children with non-fatal disabilities.

Following the vote Stormont passed a motion rejecting the MP’s decision which came into force in Northern Ireland in March 2020. The vote won by 46 votes to 40.

The vote had no effect on Westminster’s legislation but was intended to show the UK Government the direction the Assembly would take on the matter in future.

The new bill, brought by Paul Givan of the DUP, is supported by a disability rights group, Don't Screen Us Out, who campaign against proposed government’s cfDNA screening programme which they say would lead to the termination of unborn children with Down Syndrome, and will still allow for abortions to take place up until birth for fatal foetal abnormalities where babies are not expected to survive after they are born.

Mr Givan said the new legislation, if approved, would help stop discrimination against people with disabilities.

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

"We have introduced laws called the Disability Act of 1995 and we have built upon 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."

The bill is to get its first reading in Stormont today.

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