A pro-life campaigner is urging the public to “make their voices heard” in a new government consultation on abortion.
Bernie Smyth, director of the campaign group Precious Life, said the proposed abortion rules ahead of an expected law change in March are “even more extreme” than the regulations in England and Wales.
Last month, abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland but no new system regulating abortion has been put in place.
Ministers are obligated to introduce a new abortion regime in Northern Ireland in spring.
The consultation proposes unrestricted abortion would be available in Northern Ireland up to 12 or 14 weeks.
Mrs Smyth, speaking to the News Letter, said: “It remains to be seen whether the government will listen to the views of the public on this issue, because they certainly haven’t been doing that to date with this devastating law passed by Westminster.
“But we would encourage people to make their views known so that if there is any chance more protection might be offered for the unborn, so that if there is any chance to save lives, we must take it.”
She added: “We will wait and see but right now this consultation could provide an opportunity to save lives.”
Mrs Smyth also said the proposals are more “extreme” than the regulations governing abortion in England and Wales.
“The proposal seeks to introduce an extreme abortion framework which scraps many of the legal safeguards which are at present provided under the Abortion Act in England and Wales,” she said.
“The framework further seriously jeopardises the health and safety of women in Northern Ireland as it removes the requirement that two medical doctors sign off on an abortion.”
Pro-choice campaigner Grainne Teggart, the Northern Ireland campaign manager with Amnesty International, expressed a different view.
“We’re finally saying goodbye to a draconian regime that’s caused a huge amount of suffering to women and girls in Northern Ireland,” she said.
“Following historic legislative reform last month, this is a critical opportunity to ensure a framework for abortion services which has choice and rights firmly at the centre. The new framework must be completely clear – both for those who need an abortion, and the healthcare professionals.”