Unionist Executive parties did not respond to abortion consultation

Anna Lo of Alliance made a personal response to the consultation
Anna Lo of Alliance made a personal response to the consultation

Only two out of the five Executive parties offered a response to the proposed abortion law changes during the consultation period.

Justice Minister David Ford has announced plans to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

There were tens of thousands of responses to the consultation, and a string of political parties were among them.

However, the UUP, DUP and the Alliance Party declined to respond.

Both the UUP and Alliance said they had no formal position on abortion, and left it as a matter of conscience for their own members.

Last October, when the consultation began, the DUP said: “The party’s position on abortion is well-known but we recognise, as does the present law, that in certain circumstances there are exceptions.

“We are studying the options proposed in the consultation exercise to see the extent to which any of the options provided are consistent with our stated position.”

On Thursday, it said: “In common with many other consultations we have not responded to the public consultation.

“We would examine any Bill if it was published.

“MLAs and Ministers would then vote on this matter when it comes before both the Assembly and Executive.

“The DUP has firmly opposed abortion on demand in Northern Ireland and that remains our position.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein said it was supportive of both changes to the law, making abortion legal in cases of sexual crime.

It also said that it would be prepared to back a change allowing abortion for fatal foetal abnormality, subject to party members agreeing to this at their annual meeting (something which happened last month).

The SDLP said that it was consistently pro-life, and reaffirmed that it was “totally opposed to abortion”.

The TUV issued a similarly stiff response, saying that “regardless of what the department says, tampering with the laws as presently constituted will open the door to abortion on demand”.

The Green Party said that to deny women abortions in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities broke Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “torture and inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”.

The Workers Party, NI Labour Party and Socialist Party all sent in pro-abortion responses.

Whist there was no formal Alliance submission, Anna Lo (MLA for South Belfast) wrote to the department in an individual capacity.

Her position was summarised as follows: “To force a pregnant woman to carry out a full-term pregnancy, knowing that her child could not survive, is nothing short of barbaric.”

While Mr Ford decided not to pursue the idea of abortion for sex crime victims, she took a differing view.

She said: “International human rights standards provide for abortion in cases of severe foetal abnormalities and where a pregnancy is a result of sexual crime, therefore anything less than this would not be human rights-compliant.”