Ford submits bill aimed at reform of abortion law

David Ford has tried to change abortion legislation before

David Ford has tried to change abortion legislation before

Former justice minister David Ford has submitted a private member’s bill seeking to reform the law around the termination of pregnancy in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities (FFA).

If passed, it would enable women carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality to access a termination legally in Northern Ireland.

It follows a previous attempt by the South Antrim Alliance MLA to change the legislation during his tenure as justice minister.

Meanwhile, the News Letter has learned that a working group, set up earlier this year to look into how the issue of FFA can be addressed, has reported its proposals to Health Minister Michelle O’Neill and current Justice Minister, Claire Sugden.

The group was first proposed in February, when the Assembly voted against allowing women to terminate pregnancies under such circumstances.

Mrs O’Neill said: “My concern as minister of health is the care and support for women with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality. The justice minister and I received the report of the working group on October 11.

“I am actively considering the report now, and when the minister of justice and I have both considered it in full, the report will be submitted to the Executive for its consideration and approval.

“I am prepared to support legislative change if it leads to better health outcomes for women in this situation.”

The Sinn Fein MLA added that the recommendations of the working group would not be published until the Executive has concluded its deliberations.

Any change to the law will require Executive agreement and the support of the Assembly.

The minister’s comments come after a 45,000-strong petition calling for major changes to abortion legislation was delivered to Stormont by Amnesty International on Tuesday.

The organisation has also this week published the results of poll, which found 72% of people in the Province wanted abortion permitted in cases of incest and rape – while 67% supported a woman’s right to terminate pregnancy when there has been a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality.