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New poll finds strong majority in NI oppose new law allowing disability-selective abortion right up to birth

A majority of people in Northern Ireland are against introducing disability-selective abortion up to birth, a new poll has found.

The survey, conducted by Northern Ireland-based pollsters LucidTalk, found nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) were against abortion to birth for babies with a cleft palate or cleft lip. Only 15% were supportive of introducing abortion to birth for cleft lip or cleft palate.

Over two-thirds (67%) of respondents were also opposed to abortion for Down’s syndrome between 24 weeks gestation up to birth.

The poll, which had 1,878 respondents and was conducted between 3-5 June, is further evidence the people of Northern Ireland do not want Westminster imposing an extreme abortion regime on the province.

New and extreme abortion regulations drawn up by Westminster last year in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly came into force in March.

Under the new regime, disability-selective abortion will be available up to the point of birth for all disabilities, including cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot and Down’s syndrome.

Earlier this month, the Northern Ireland Assembly passed a motion opposing the extreme regulations which have been imposed on the province by the UK Government.

Across the two votes held, 75 MLAs voted against the provisions in the regulations allowing abortion for non-fatal disabilities.

However, the UK Government has claimed it has obligations to impose the extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland – something which has been questioned by two leading lawyers in a House of Lords report and by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP.

Members of the House of Lords will debate and vote on the regulations today, ahead of a debate and vote in the House of Commons later in the week.

Ahead of the debate, Lord Shinkwin has proposed a motion to decline the regulations on the grounds that they discriminate and perpetuate stereotypes against those with a disability.

The peer, who was born with a rare genetic brittle bone disease, told News Letter:

“This polling demonstrates how out of touch the government is with public opinion in driving these outdated and discriminatory regulations through Parliament.

“Although technically the regulations only relate to Northern Ireland, the whole UK Parliament is being invited to endorse them and to thereby legitimise disability discrimination.”

Baroness O’Loan has also tabled a motion urging peers to reject the Northern Ireland Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020.

In her motion, the former police commissioner notes the extreme abortion regime has been rejected by the Northern Ireland Assembly, discriminate against those with a disability and will allow for sex-selective abortion in the first 12 weeks of gestation.

In response to the poll results, DUP MP Carla Lockhart said: “These polling results underline yet again why it is monstrous that the UK government should seek to impose a discriminatory abortion regime on Northern Ireland.”

“In crafting regulations that say it is OK to terminate viable unborn babies between 24 weeks gestation and full-term because they have a non-fatal disability, while saying that viable babies of exactly the same age should be protected from this because they don’t have a disability, the law says loud and clear that the lives of people with non-fatal disabilities are less valuable than those with fatal disabilities, with fatal consequences.”

CARE NI, who commissioned the poll, said the results “highlighted yet again that Westminster is out of touch and the issue of abortion law should be returned to the NI Assembly”.

Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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Dear reader

In 2020, the UK Government imposed an extreme abortion regime on Northern Ireland, which included a provision that legalised abortion right up to birth for disabilties including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.

A new Bill has been launched at the Northern Ireland assembly that will remove the current provision that allows abortion for ‘severe fetal impairment’.

It is under these grounds in the regulations that babies with disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot can currently be singled out for abortion in Northern Ireland because of their disability and can be aborted right up to birth.

Before the new abortion regime was imposed on Northern Ireland in 2020, disability-selective abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot was not legal and there was a culture of welcoming and supporting people with these disabilities rather than eliminating them.

This is reflected directly in the latest figures (2016) from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while there were 52 children born with Down’s syndrome in Northern Ireland, in the same year only 1 child from Northern Ireland with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales. 

This contrasts with the situation in the rest of the United Kingdom where disability-selective abortion has been legal since 1967.

The latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.

We are, therefore, asking people like you to take 30 seconds of your time and add your support to the campaign to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot in Northern Ireland.

If you live in Northern Ireland: 
Ask your MLAs to vote to stop abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot:

If you live outside Northern Ireland: 
Show your support by signing this petition in support of the Bill:

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Help stop abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities including Down's syndrome & club foot

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