Dickson and Lunn seek action on fatal foetal abnormality

Stewart Dickson MLA and Trevor Lunn MLA have submitted an amendment to the Justice Bill seeking reform of the law around cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

The amendment proposes an update to the law which would allow women carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality to access a termination legally in Northern Ireland. It comes in the wake of the Justice Minister’s unsuccessful attempts to get the Executive to agree such legislation and the high profile case of Sarah Ewart.

Mr Dickson said he recognised the current law needed updated.

“We have long been in contact with Sarah Ewart and her mother Jane Christie, who have campaigned on this matter since Sarah’s heart-breaking experience. Trevor and I promised them we would endeavour to do whatever we could to help update the law in terms of fatal foetal abnormalities – I hope this amendment will achieve this.

“Abortion law is a conscience issue for Alliance – the Justice Minister’s position on the need to reform the law and his appeal decision against the Horner judgement does not change that. This is a strictly worded amendment, specifically relating to fatal foetal abnormality only and while it may not go far enough for some, realistically, I believe this is the only way forward a majority of the Assembly can support.”

Mr Lunn said the Department of Justice had begun consulting on this matter in 2014.

“In June 2015, the Justice Minister proposed to the Executive it should agree legislation to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. However, to date the Executive has failed to accept that recommendation, leaving many women with no option but to continue the pregnancy, or make the traumatic journey across the Irish Sea to seek a termination.

“If other parties allow a free vote on this issue, I believe a majority of MLAs will back this amendment, and therefore we could deliver a major step forward in this area and for women’s healthcare.

“Other MLAs and parties have made similar pledges to Sarah Ewart in the past. This is now a chance for them to make good on these pledges, back this amendment, reform the law and provide options to women in the case of fatal foetal abnormality.”

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