A Bill aiming to amend the law in Northern Ireland to prevent abortions in cases of non-fatal disabilities has been back by the majority of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The Severe Fetal Impairment Bill passed its second stage by 48 votes to 12. It is important to state, there still would be no time restraint for terminations where there is a ‘substantial risk’ a foetus would suffer a severe mental or physical impairment.
It will proceed for scrutiny at Stormont’s health committee. The Bill, as introduced by DUP MLA Paul Givan, aims to ‘tackle disability discrimination and how the law perpetuates stereotypes’. The Bill has been backed by some disability rights campaigners.
There has been arguments against this bill. Arlene Foster condemned the bill and said it was ‘designed to curb the rights of women’. She has raised concerns that the issue of abortion was entering into the ‘realm of eugenics’. Abortion has always been a balancing act between the rights of the woman against the rights of the foetus. Ultimately, this will not change. However, this amendment will offer further protection to the foetuses in Northern Ireland. It could be argued to be an attempt to roll back abortion progress, considering the controversial nature of abortion.