Belfast Telegraph

DUP won't trade rights of unborn child for deal with Tories, says Paisley

By Lizzy Buchan

A DUP MP has issued a warning over abortion in Northern Ireland, saying the rights of an unborn child "trump any political agreement" the party has with the Government.

Ian Paisley was speaking as it was announced by the Welsh government that it has agreed to fund abortions in Wales for women and girls from Northern Ireland.

It means Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not offering free abortions to women in Northern Ireland.

Mr Paisley's warning was in response to claims of a "backroom deal" between the DUP and the Government made by the SNP's Drew Hendry during a debate on EU legislation.

The DUP has agreed to prop up the Tory minority government on key votes - however, Mr Paisley made clear that it would not be swayed on social issues such as abortion, which the DUP opposes.

It comes after ministers announced funding for women in Northern Ireland to have abortions on the NHS in England in order to head off a rebellion on the Queen's Speech.

Mr Paisley, speaking as MPs debated the European Union (Approvals) Bill, said: "I'm going to make it absolutely clear that the rights of the unborn child, in my view and in the views of people in my party and on this bench, trump any political agreement that had been put in place.

"We're making that absolutely and abundantly clear, and if anyone thinks that we would take a view where we would trade that issue of life and the sanctity of life on a political deal, they don't understand me and they don't understand my party and they need to be aware of that."

Mr Hendry, intervening, said that he had been referring to LGBT rights in Northern Ireland rather than abortion, but Mr Paisley stood by his comments.

"I believe that my party will take a stand on that issue, irrespective of the political agreements that are reached," he said.

"I say that as a warning to others who wish to raise (this issue) in the House in the weeks and months and hopefully in the years ahead."

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except where the physical or mental wellbeing of the mother is at risk.

Yesterday, the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, was asked in the Welsh Assembly in by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood: "First Minister, the governments in England and Scotland have announced that they will act to provide free access to abortion services for women from the north of Ireland. Will Wales follow suit?"

Mr Jones replied: "The answer to the question is 'yes'. That's what we want to do.

"We're looking at the detail of how that can be done, but we want to make sure that the same service is on offer in Wales as it is in England and Scotland.

"There are issues such as, for example, travel costs, and issues such as how you provide ongoing care for a procedure, rather than people just going home.

"These things are being considered at the moment, but I can assure the leader of Plaid Cymru that what we are looking to do is to make sure that Wales, England and Scotland offer the same service," he added.

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