Unity in abortion laws needed across Ireland says Sinn Féin leader

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Picture by Hugh Russell

THERE should be unity in abortion laws across the island of Ireland, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

Speaking ahead of today's referendum in the south to repeal the Eighth Amendment, Ms McDonald said she imagined women from the north would travel to the Republic for abortions if the legislation is passed.

She said it was not acceptable "to solve the problem for women and girls south of the border and say it is alright if the same problem exists across the border".

"I can only hope that Brexit and all of that disruptive dynamic would not do anything to harm or impede women's ability to access services," she added.

"There is no substitute for women and girls accessing the services they need on their own doorstep. I am not arguing that it is an ideal scenario, it is not."

And she stressed that convincing some within political unionism of this would be similar to efforts to introduce marriage equality in the north, where same-sex marriage is illegal.

Ms McDonald also said she will bring a new party policy to an ard fheis in June which would allow for access to abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, in line with the proposals put forward by the government.

Sinn Féin's current position across the island of Ireland is to allow for terminations when a mother's life or health is at risk, in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

The party leader said its position on this issue was "evolving" and there has been a level of conscience afforded to members that has not been the case in other issues.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Ms McDonald criticised the position of Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, who advocated a no vote in a televised debate.

She said she preferred if all elected people respected the wishes of the party's ard fheis and the decisions made by the party's delegates.

"I would prefer had Peadar not taken it upon himself to go on a solo run, or to solely be concerned with his own personal views," she said.

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