The DUP's Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has welcomed the Private Members Bill tabled by Paul Givan MLA in the Northern Ireland Assembly today. The Bill seeks to remove the provision within Northern Ireland's abortion legislation which allows for abortion up to term in cases of a "severe fetal impairment".
This provision currently allows for terminations of a pregnancy based solely on a primary diagnosis of disabilities such as Down's Syndrome, cleft palate, cleft lip or clubfoot.
The DUP MP said,
"The abortion laws imposed upon Northern Ireland by Westminster were not supported by a majority of the public and were also opposed by a majority of MLAs in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
During the most recent debate in the Assembly, 75 out of 90 MLAs voted against the provisions to allow for abortion in cases of non-fatal disabilities. Now is the opportunity for MLAs to give practical effect to that previous vote.
It is significant also that this bill is being taken forward in conjunction with disability campaigners including the 'Don't Screen Us Out' group and Heidi Crowter. Their voice should be at the centre of this debate and we should all pause and reflect when they tell us that the current law makes them feel less valued and less part of our society.
This is a relatively small legislative step, but it is one of significance. For those of us who campaigned vociferously against the imposition of the abortion legislation to Northern Ireland, it does not undermine that opposition. I and many others still want to see Section 9 of the Executive Formation Act abolished.
This Private Members Bill however sends out a powerful message about how we value people with conditions such as Down's Syndrome, and should it protect one life in Northern Ireland then ultimately it will be worthwhile.
I am pleased that the bill is supported by many of those who are most directly affected by this legislation and hope that their voice will be where the focus remains. It places people with a disability at the centre and sets out a challenge for everyone as to how we can ensure they are seen and treated as equal citizens and not merely as a diagnosis."