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Disability rights activist urges MPs to reject NI abortion regulations

Heidi Crowter claimed the new abortion laws are discriminatory 
Michael McHugh, PA

Disability rights activist Heidi Crowter has urged MPs not to approve Northern Ireland's abortion regulations after they were rejected by the Stormont assembly.

Yesterday the assembly voted in opposition to new provisions that include terminations up to birth in cases of serious non-fatal disabilities.

Ms Crowter claimed such laws are discriminatory.

She said: "Firstly I would like to say thank you for voting for equality for disabled babies in the womb.

"It makes me feel overjoyed and very proud of myself that my campaigning helped and inspired the MLAs.

"I listened to the debate and was delighted with the vote.

"I would now call on the government not to ask MPs and peers to vote for regulations that contain discriminatory provisions that tell people like me that we should not exist."

MPs are due to vote on the abortion regulations, which were introduced in March, at Westminster later this month.

If they are rejected, the British government would face the prospect of having to redraw new regulations.

The north's restrictive abortion laws were changed by MPs last year at a time when the assembly was collapsed.

The outcome of last night's debate at Stormont does not change the recently introduced liberalised system.

A DUP motion rejecting the "imposition" of abortion regulations by Westminster passed by 46 votes to 40. One abstained.

Some SDLP, UUP and Alliance Party MLAs voted with the DUP while others opposed it.

While the motion rejected the new regulations in their entirety, it focused on one which permits abortions up to birth in cases of severe disability.

A related amendment from Sinn Féin fell.

Ms Crowter's mother Liz Crowter said: "At 24 weeks babies are viable.

"You cannot have a law that says it is OK to end the lives of some viable human beings because they have Down Syndrome, while saying that other viable human beings of the same age cannot be because they don't have a disability, without saying human beings with non-fatal disabilities are worthy of less protection and are therefore less valuable."

Nicola Woods, from Belfast, is mother of Daniel Woods, seven, who has Down Syndrome.

She said: "It is great news that our elected representatives here in Northern Ireland have spoken up for the rights of the unborn with disabilities.

"There should be no difference in the treatment of pregnancies depending on the chromosomes of the baby.

"People with Down Syndrome aren't stupid. They understand that the screening and discriminatory abortion law around Down Syndrome, and other disabilities, implies their lives are not worth living and the absolute opposite is the case.

"We want Northern Ireland to be a clear voice in standing up for the value of people like my son Daniel."

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