Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein and DUP reject motion supporting abortion and gay marriage

Belfast City Council
Belfast City Council

Sinn Fein and the DUP have rejected a Belfast City Council motion expressing support for legislation on abortion and gay marriage.

There was a clash between councillors on Monday night over plans to liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion laws, which are due to be liberalised if a power-sharing assembly is not reinstated by October 21.

It follows a vote amongst MPs in July which also took in the legalisation of same-sex marriage. New regulations liberalising strict abortion laws here would be in place by March 2020.

Abortion is permitted in Northern Ireland only in limited circumstances, while it is allowed up to 24 weeks in Britain and 12 weeks in the Republic.

A motion initially put forward by the DUP's Brian Kingston said the council should write to Secretary of State Julian Smith to state its opposition to the imposition of changes to abortion law by Westminster, according to the Irish News.

He described the Westminster vote as "an abuse of parliamentary procedure" and set out the DUP's anti-abortion position.

"Legislation should reflect local conscience on the matter," he said.

Mr Kingston's motion was defeated.

Green councillor Aine Groogan proposed that the council should write to Mr Smith to "express our strong support for both abortion and equal marriage legislation".

She said: "Abortion is healthcare. It is not a crime."

"The absence of a functioning assembly has led to the situation where Westminster has taken the brave decision to legislate to ensure our laws are human rights compliant and that people in Northern Ireland have the same rights as those elsewhere in the UK."

Her amendment was later defeated after Sinn Fein and the DUP voted against it.

It led to Sinn Fein proposing its own amendment calling for the assembly to be re-established "on the basis of rights and equality and provide modern healthcare for women including terminations where a woman's life, health or mental health is at risk and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime".

Sinn Fein Councillor Claire Canavan called for "an urgent need for reform of current legislation on abortion because it is incompatible with human rights requirements".

She said the assembly should decide key issues, including abortion, instead of Westminster and said that the party supported the decriminalisation of abortion.

Her amendment was also defeated.

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