Dickson – Justice Bill amendment would result in bad law

Alliance Justice Spokesperson, Stewart Dickson MLA, has said that the amendment that was originally tabled by Jim Wells to the Justice Bill would result in bad law, and is not about the wider abortion debate; it merely attempts to restrict the ability of a patient to elect where they can avail of health services. The amendment was subsequently put forward by the Justice Committee and would make it illegal for non Health and Social Care Trust premises to deliver certain services within the current laws around abortion.

Explaining why Alliance MLAs have signed a petition of concern in relation to the amendment, Stewart Dickson MLA said: “This amendment is not about the wider debate around abortion. It is about denying patients the right to avail of the same health services outside the NHS and determining who can deliver medical services within the current law.

“It is bad legislation that should not have been attached to the end of the Justice Bill. There are significant human rights concerns regarding this amendment that would surely create further legal confusion and lead to challenges in the High Court.

“The regulation of health services at non Health and Social Care Trust premises is an important issue that requires careful consideration, but we do not believe that this amendment is the appropriate method to go about this issue. On such a sensitive issue there should have been a full public consultation exercise, something that has not taken place on this amendment. Ironically, successive DUP Health Minister have failed to take forward any policy development on this issue.

“Alliance believes that a robust regulatory framework is the correct way to ensure that all providers of healthcare services, both public and private, remain within the law, rather than seeking to put an amendment to an unrelated piece of legislation.

“Alliance remains resolute in our opposition to the abuse of the petition of concern mechanism, but acknowledges that this system has been at the heart of a wide range of proposals and models of devolution for the past 40 years and should only be used in very limited circumstances such as equality and human rights concerns. This is one such instance.”


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