An amendment to outlaw abortions on those with non-fatal disabilities has passed the second stage in the Northern Irish assembly by 48 votes to 12.
Pro-life groups called the vote for the Severe Fetal Abortion (Amendment) Bill “a wake-up call to the radical nature” of the North’s abortion law, saying that it gives hope that this could be “the first step” on the road to overturning the law.
Spokesperson for the Pro-life Campaign (PLC), Ms Eilís Mulroy welcomed the anti-discrimination measure, saying “it sends a strong human rights message that it’s not acceptable to single out an entire category of people and seek to justify ending their lives”.
“We commend all the politicians who contributed to this and all the MLA’s who voted it through the second stage,” she continued. “It’s a vitally important human rights measure and hopefully one that can be built on. It’s the first successful challenge to abortion legislation on the island of Ireland, so it’s a cause for hope.”
A spokesperson for the Iona Institute NI, Ms Tracey Harkin, said the result was “what we hoped for and expected”.
“What the campaign has been is a wake-up call about the radical nature of the abortion legislation,” she told The Irish Catholic.
“It’s good that it received majority support because it’s not the type of culture the people want in Northern Ireland. It’s certainly not what the vast majority would have voted for if they had the chance and shows that politicians wouldn’t have either.”
Abortion was legalised in Northern Ireland following a ruling by the Westminster government in 2019, Section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.
Ms Harkin is hopeful that the move will be the first step on the road to removing the abortion law in its entirety.
“We would like obviously to extend protection to as many people as possible,” she said. “We think it’s important to support any row-back on abortion legislation, but you have to bring people along with you and make our politicians realise how important this issue is.”