Sinn Fein and SDLP in Downs Syndrome abortion row

Peadar Toibin says his party published the provocative graphic to raise awareness about the new legal regime in NI.
Peadar Toibin says his party published the provocative graphic to raise awareness about the new legal regime in NI.
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Republican political party Aontú has published a provoctive poster accusing Sinn Fein of being responsible for ‘legalising abortion’ in cases of Down’s Syndrome.

The poster, which has been published on social media, pictures a young girl with Down’s Syndrome, and says: “Sinn Fein will be responsible for legalising abortion for Down’s Syndrome if it does not reconvene Stormont by October 21st.”

At present abortion is only lawful in NI when a woman’s health is at risk. However, legislation passed by MPs means abortion will be decriminalised in NI if Stormont is not reinstated by 21 October.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD said does not deny the poster is highly provocative.

“The difficulty is we are ten days off one of the most extreme abortion regimes in Europe being implemented in the north of Ireland,” he says. He believes there is a “political cartel” between Sinn Fein and the SDLP and that nobody is raising the ramifications of the issue. “Many people have criticised Aontú for the poster but nobody has actually said it is untrue”.

“But the statistics are clear - if you have a disability, are female, from an ethnic background or if you are poor, you are far more likely to be aborted as an unborn child. And we believe everybody should have a right to life and that everybody is equal.”

Sinn Fein responded that the matter is now in the hands of the party solicitor to advise on any legal remedy available as a result of “the deliberate misleading and inaccurate content of this disgraceful and highly offensive poster”. Current legislation is “incompatible with human rights” and abortion should be available where a woman’s life, or health is at risk or in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, rape or sexual abuse, the party said.

An SDLP spokesman responded that the poster is “a disgusting and desperate cry for attention”.

He added: “The SDLP has tabled bold proposals to restore the Assembly through reform of the petition of concern that would allow local MLAs to take decisions on these matters in the best interests of those they represent. Political debate is fine, but this deliberate misrepresentation of our position is beneath contempt.”

NHS figures show there were over 200,000 abortions last year in England and Wales, an increase of almost 1% on the year previous.

Two per cent were were due to the risk of “a seriously handicapped” child.

This means 4000 abortions were carried out last year in England and Wales due to serious disability.