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“This polling demonstrates how out of touch the government is with public opinion in driving these outdated and discriminatory regulations through Parliament.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

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.