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Parliament's approval of NI abortion laws 'one of the darkest days in NI'

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DUP MP Carla Lockhart

DUP MP Carla Lockhart

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International

Photopress Belfast

DUP MP Carla Lockhart

The DUP has said yesterday "represents one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland's history" after MPs approved controversial abortion regulations opposed by Stormont.

The vote to back the new rules - 253 votes to 136, majority 117 - which came into effect at the end of March means they have been approved by both the Commons and the Lords.

Northern Ireland's near blanket ban on terminations ended last year when MPs intervened and voted through a law change when Stormont was still in deep freeze amid the power-sharing crisis.

Earlier this month, a majority of MLAs in the restored Assembly approved a motion that rejected the "imposition" of the new laws. But with Parliament having backed the regulations, the Government has now avoided the prospect of having to redraw them.

Abortion is now legal in all circumstances in Northern Ireland in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. When the pregnancy poses a risk to the woman's physical or mental health, the time limit is 24 weeks.

Abortions are permitted at any time up to birth when there has been a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality or where the child is likely to suffer severe mental or physical impairment.

Anti-abortion campaigners claim the regulation involving non-fatal disabilities discriminates against disabled people and allows for unlimited terminations for conditions such as Down's syndrome.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart said: "The will of the people of Northern Ireland has been ignored. The will of the Northern Ireland Assembly has been ignored.

"The devolution settlement cast aside to press ahead with this life-ending agenda. This is undoubtedly one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland's history. However, we are not without hope.

"It is now up to the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive to change these regulations and bring them into line with public thinking on abortion here. It will now be for MLAs to act without delay to protect the pre-born child."

However, Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland campaign manager, welcomed the result. "It's great to see another strong majority vote for abortion rights in Northern Ireland. After so long, it's right that we finally leave behind the shackles of our past - this is what women and girls here deserve," she said.

"Since March 31, women have had the right to access services in Northern Ireland - no one should be forced to travel far for healthcare any more. Northern Ireland's Department of Health must now commission these services as a matter of priority."

Belfast Telegraph