The final attempt by Unionist MLAs to stop abortion law being imposed upon Northern Ireland has failed, with the law set to change at midnight.
Unionist parties triggered the assembly’s recall with a petition and attempted to introduce the ‘Defence of the Unborn Child Bill 2019’ which they had hoped to have passed by midnight. Sinn Fein deliberately shunned all proceedings.
However, MLAs were informed that no Bill could be passed until a speaker was appointed with cross-community backing. This aim was then rendered impossible when the nationalist SDLP party walked out of the chamber.
With no Nationalist support remaining, no speaker could be elected resulting in the suspension of the sitting which lasted less than 1 hour.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) then left the chamber with DUP leader Arlene Foster describing the proceedings as a “shameful day.”
“A dark day for Northern Ireland and those who believe in the inviolability of human life”
SPUC Political Officer, Liam Gibson said: “From midnight tonight the law which was credited with saving the lives of more than 100,000 babies born in Northern Ireland since 1967 will be repealed. Unborn children will be stripped of all meaningful legal protection.
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“Although the recall of the Assembly held little prospect of the election of a First and Deputy First Minister, there was an eleventh-hour attempt to introduce new legislation which could have replaced current legal protections. Unfortunately, the members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) walked out of the chamber ensuring a Speaker could not be elected. This guaranteed that decriminalisation could not be stopped.
“Although Sinn Féin has been blatant about its support for abortion on demand the SDLP has always insisted that it is a pro-life party. After today, however, the principal responsibility for the introduction of abortion on demand to Northern Ireland must be laid at the door of the SDLP. Pro-life voters know now that not one member of the SDLP’s Assembly group cared enough about unborn children to save them from the most extreme abortion regime in Europe. It is a very dark day for Northern Ireland and for all those who believe in the inviolability of human life.”
Drawing closer to midnight
From midnight tonight, the existing abortion law in Northern Ireland, which protects unborn children, will be repealed and the most extreme abortion regime in western Europe will be imposed by Parliament in Westminster. Self-induced abortion, sex-selective abortion and use of illicit abortion drugs, before the 24th week, will not be treated as a criminal offence.