Northern Ireland news

SDLP confirms its abortion conference will be private

Colum Eastwood SDLP's discussions on abortion were part of a 'very big conversation going on across Ireland'. Picture by Declan Roughan/Press Eye

The SDLP has confirmed that next month's special conference to review abortion policy will be held behind closed doors.

The party will hold a conference on Saturday May19 dedicated entirely to abortion policy after it was decided that there would not have been adequate time to discuss the contentious issue at last weekend's annual conference in Belfast.

An hour had intially been earmarked to debate a number of motions relating to abortion at last Saturday's conference.

Next month's special conference will take place six days ahead of the Republic's May 25 referendum on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, which protects the rights of the unborn child.

Abortion is only legal in the south if the mother's life it at risk. In Northern Ireland, abortion is only permitted if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told The Irish News last week that the party's discussions on abortion were part of a "very big conversation going on across Ireland".

Explaining the decision to hold its special conference behind closed doors, a party spokesman said: "This is to allow all members who wish to speak the opportunity to do so privately given the sensitive and deeply personal nature of this issue.

"The result of the discussion will be made public thereafter."

Sinn Féin will debate the abortion issue after the Republic's referendum when the party holds its ard fheis in Belfast on June 15 and 16.

The party will campaign for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, but it does not support abortion without restrictions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – the policy that will be put before the Dáil if the referendum passes.

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