Thousands of people are demanding members of the Northern Ireland Assembly hold an urgent debate and vote on abortion law to show they reject abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome and other disabilities.
It comes after the Assembly found time to debate regulations relating to electric pedal cycles but have, so far, not found time to distance itself from the Conservative Government’s extreme abortion regime.
On 12 May, six weeks after the regime came into effect, MLAs debated and voted in favour of allowing electric bikes on Northern Ireland roads but are yet to discuss abortion.
Disability advocacy campaigners are now questioning the priorities of their local representatives saying the right to life of unborn babies should be debated before bikes.
Last year, in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly, the UK Parliament voted to impose abortion on the province.
Although 79% of consultation respondents stating opposition to any changes in Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation, the Conservative Government announced on 25 March they would impose an extreme abortion regime on the province.
A parliamentary vote on the extreme abortion regime is expected by 22 June.
Despite now meeting two days a week and having found time to debate electric pedal cycles, the Assembly still hasn’t found time to debate abortion.
One of those calling for a debate is Heidi Crowter, the 24-year-old disability campaigner, with Down’s syndrome.
She wrote to MLAs last week asking them to take a lead and do everything they can to oppose “hurtful and offensive” laws allowing discriminatory disability-selective abortions up to the point of birth.
In her letter, Heidi said: “Boris Johnson’s Government did not have to introduce abortion for babies with Down’s syndrome up to birth to Northern Ireland. They chose to do this.
“That’s both hurtful and offensive. My life has as much value as anyone else’s.
“I am asking all MLA’s (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to reject Westminster’s regulations – please don’t vote for more discrimination against people like me.”
She added: “Do not make the mistake which was made in Great Britain in allowing discrimination against people like me just because we happen to have Down’s syndrome.
“Please let Northern Ireland continue to be a country where disabled people are valued.
“Please do not let a law come into practice which will end lives on the basis of disability and stop people like me coming into the world.”
Prior to Northern Ireland’s extreme abortion regime coming into effect, the province embraced a culture of welcoming and supporting people with this disability, rather than eliminating them.
This is reflected directly in figures from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, which show that while 52 children with Down’s syndrome were born, in 2016, in the same year only 1 child with Down’s syndrome was aborted in England and Wales.
In contrast, in England and Wales, the latest available figures show that 90% of children diagnosed with Down’s syndrome before birth are aborted in England and Wales.
Additionally, last year it was revealed pregnant mothers who refuse to abort their children with Down’s syndrome are being pressured by some medical professionals to change their decision – even at 38 weeks’ gestation.
Disability campaigners are now fearful the same disregard for the life of disabled children could soon become commonplace in Northern Ireland if discriminatory disability-selective abortions become law permanently.
A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:
“The Northern Ireland Assembly is supposed to represent the voice of the people of Northern Ireland.
“Yet, their silence on this matter to date has been deafening.
“The majority of those in Northern Ireland are opposed to any permanent change in abortion law and would rather see MLAs debate babies before bikes.
“Please write to your local MLAs asking them to seek an urgent debate and vote on a resolution to this matter, distancing Northern Ireland from Whitehall’s profoundly ill-conceived abortion disability proposal.”