Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin supports abortions in certain circumstances and within a 'limited gestational period'

Sinn Féin supports abortions within a "limited gestational period"

SINN Féin will tell a consultation on Northern Ireland's new abortion laws that it only supports terminations in certain circumstances and within a "limited gestational period".

Abortion will be decriminalised on October 22, provided a power-sharing assembly does not return to block the move.

A public consultation on a proposed legal framework for Northern Ireland will open on or shortly after October 22, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) said earlier this week.

The consultation is likely to cover how far into a pregnancy a woman can access a termination and how an abortion service will work in practice, including which hospitals will perform the procedure.

Following an analysis of responses to the consultation, new abortion laws will be drawn up to come into force by March 31 2020.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said yesterday the party planned to respond to the consultation, provided it goes ahead.

He said although the party is in favour of a "limited gestational period", term limits should be informed by medical advice.

In Britain, women can have a termination up to 24 weeks. However, it is not yet known if Northern Ireland will have the same limit.

In the Republic, abortions can be performed up to 12 weeks.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said: "Current legislation on abortion is failing women in the north and is incompatible with human rights requirements."

"Sinn Féin is totally opposed to the extension of Britain's 1967 Act to the north," he said.

"However, British legislation which criminalises women who have an abortion should be repealed immediately.

"There is also a need for urgent legislative change to provide appropriate, modern and compassionate healthcare services for women across the island."

He said the party supports terminations "where a woman's life, health or mental health is at risk and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and in the cases of rape or sexual abuse".

"Sinn Féin supported the Joint Oireachtas Committee findings that it is not possible to legislate for abortion in the case of rape in a compassionate way," he said.

"Abortion without specific indication should therefore be available as determined by law and licensing practice for a limited gestational period and informed by the best available medical advice through a GP led service in a clinical context."

The DUP has been outspoken in its opposition to abortion.

However, the Alliance and SDLP have said terminations are a matter of conscience for individual party members.

Green Party NI leader Clare Bailey MLA said her party had campaigned for the decriminalisation of abortion "and as such is broadly supportive of the abortion guidance from the NIO".

"We believe that abortion should take place as early as possible and as late as necessary," she said.

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