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Abortion ban report to be unveiled within days, minister promises

Published 10/10/2016

Michelle O'Neill says she will bring forward recommendations on abortion laws within days
Michelle O'Neill says she will bring forward recommendations on abortion laws within days

A Stormont-established working group set up to examine Northern Ireland's ban on abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities is due to report within days.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said she and Justice Minister Claire Sugden would be handed the experts' assessment on the issue in the coming days. She said it would be then passed to her Executive colleagues for deliberation.

Abortion is outlawed in Northern Ireland except in cases where the mother's health is at risk.

Last year, a High Court judge in Belfast ruled that the ban on terminations in instances of sexual crime or fatal foetal abnormalities were incompatible with international human rights laws.

Attorney General John Larkin and Stormont's Department of Justice appealed against that ruling. Judges are considering arguments made during the appeal hearing.

Previous Health Minister Simon Hamilton announced the establishment of the working group on fatal foetal abnormality in the wake of the original High Court ruling.

During Assembly question time, Ms O'Neill said the group had been working since the summer "to consider the care and support provided to women and their families when a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis has been given".

She added: "That includes consideration of legislative changes. The group has met on several occasions. I expect to receive its report in the coming days, which I, along with the Minister of Justice, will then bring to the Executive."

Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy and Alliance's Naomi Long had raised the issue on the floor on the chamber.

Ms O'Neill said: "I believe the work of this working group has been vital in how we go forward and change things.

"I think women who find themselves in this scenario need every possible support we can offer. It is a really difficult scenario, so I think it is important we make sure that the systems, processes and practices within the health and social care trusts are fit for purpose and responsive to the needs of those individuals.

"I am grateful for the work of the working group and I look forward to bringing forward implementing the changes the group will recommend."

Press Association

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