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Extreme abortion laws to come into force in Northern Ireland, after last-chance bid to block the change fails

A last-chance bid to stop Europe’s most extreme abortion regime being imposed on Northern Ireland has failed.

It means that from midnight tonight, abortion will be available, on-demand, up to 28 weeks legalising sex-selective and disability-selective abortion including abortion for Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

The legislative change marks a radical shift from Northern Ireland’s previous law on abortion which, according to fact-checked research, has saved 100,000 lives.

There was a small sign of hope that this radical legislation would not be introduced when it was announced on Friday that Stormont would be sitting today (Monday 21st October). 

However, it became clear over the weekend that Sinn Fein were not prepared to form a power-sharing executive with the DUP to stop Westminster imposing abortion on Northern Ireland.

Despite this, a last-chance bid was made by the Democratic Unionist Party to introduce and pass the Defence of the Unborn Child Bill 2019 before midnight, which would have stopped the law change.

However, the incumbent speaker of Stormont, Robin Newton, ruled that the Bill could not be considered by the assembly until a new Speaker had been elected.

The only nationalist grouping that attended, and therefore needed to engage, the SDLP, refused to participate in the election of a Speaker and – despite describing itself as a pro-life party and the enormity of the issue – walked out. It was, therefore, impossible to elect a Speaker and to introduce the Bill.

The Defence of the Unborn Child Bill 2019 could not be passed to stop Westminster imposing an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland at midnight tonight.

Once it became clear the new Bill could not pass, the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster MLA, addressed the chamber. She said that it was a “shameful day” for Northern Ireland, but that “it’s not the end of the matter as far as this party is concerned.” Mrs Foster went on to say that the DUP “will take every possible legal option open to us to try and stop [the extreme abortion law], if it comes into force.”

The sitting of the Assembly was suspended after less than an hour.

Spokesperson for Right to Life UK, Catherine Robinson said: 

“Today is an incredibly dark day for Northern Ireland, particularly for the unborn child and everyone who supports the right to life. 

“Despite the efforts of tens of thousands of Northern Irish people, Europe’s most extreme abortion legislation will be imposed on Northern Ireland at midnight tonight. 

“Abortion will now be legal in Northern Ireland on the grounds of disability and gender and there will be no effective regulation until at least March 2020.

“We continue to believe that both the lives of pregnant mothers and their unborn babies matter and will continue to be a voice for the voiceless, campaigning for progressive change that protects the right to life.”

Dear reader,

Ahead of the General Election on 4 July, do you want to find out where your local MP candidates stand on abortion?

You can find out now using our Vote For Both Lives tool, which you can access by clicking the button below.