Ford abortion proposals attacked from both sides

David Ford said the health of the woman should take priority in cases of foetal abnormality
David Ford said the health of the woman should take priority in cases of foetal abnormality

David Ford has come under fire from those on both sides of the abortion debate after announcing his policy on the matter.

Strict anti-abortion campaigners had wanted no change in the law, while he was criticised for not going far enough by others.

Announcing his decision, he said: “In the limited circumstances of a foetal abnormality which is likely to cause death either before birth, during birth or in an initial period after birth, and where no treatment other than palliative care could be offered to improve the chances of survival, my view is that the health and well-being of the woman must take priority and that the law should be clear and offer certainty.”

On the subject of why he is not proceeding with plans to allow sex crime victims to have abortions, the paper published on Thursday said the public consultation resulted in few “detailed suggestions for reform”.

Ultimately it concludes “the complexities of the issues are such that it is not possible to make detailed proposals at this time on whether and how the law might be reformed”.

Amnesty International said his decision to press ahead with reform on the issue of fatal abnormalities was “a step towards much-needed reform of our draconian abortion laws”.

But it added: “Forcing a woman to continue with a pregnancy which has been forced upon her through sexual violence is inhumane.

“Women, finding themselves in the most distressing of circumstances, deserve the freedom to make deeply personal choices about their pregnancies.”

Meanwhile, the group Christian Action Research and Education said: “It’s impossible to get away from the fact more than 25,000 people engaged with this consultation and at a time of widespread voter apathy, for the Northern Ireland Executive to ignore this would be frankly extraordinary.

“We believe the proposed changes to the current law are wrong and as evidenced by the results of this consultation many people across Northern Ireland clearly feel the same.”