Northern Ireland news

Deputy DUP leader Paula Bradley urges party to allow paper on commissioning abortion services

DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley (centre). Picture by Mal McCann

NEW deputy DUP leader Paula Bradley has urged her party to allow a paper on commissioning abortion services to go before the Executive.

Ms Bradley, widely seen as being the party's most socially liberal MLA, said the issue needs to be discussed, particularly since many women are still being forced to travel to England for terminations.

The DUP has blocked attempts by Sinn Féin and health minister Robin Swann to put the commissioning of abortion services on the Executive's agenda.

Senior DUP figures including new leader Edwin Poots and Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan, likely to be chosen as the party's pick for First Minister, are opposed to the widening of abortion provision.

Abortions in all circumstances up to 12 weeks of pregnancy have been allowed since last year following legislation passed at Westminster.

But abortion services vary widely over the north's different health trusts.

In an interview with UTV’s View From Stormont, Ms Bradley said the DUP should allow a paper on commissioning abortion services to go before the Executive.

"That discussion does need to take place because there are women there that are having to travel, that are being put under an awful lot more pressure because of decisions they have to make – the most difficult decisions in their life," she said.

“So I think we have a responsibility to, at the very least, start talking about these issues.”

She said that abortion was “one of the most difficult issues to deal with” in her 10 years as an MLA.

"For me, as a female, I’ve always believed: ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’. It’s not that easy when someone is under pressure, or whatever their circumstances might be," she said.

Ms Bradley abstained in a Stormont vote on banning gay conversion therapy last month.

However, she said if she had been given the choice by her party, she would have voted in favour of the motion.

She was not present for the vote because her father was in hospital. But she said she had already agreed with the DUP that she would abstain.

"Given the choice, which I didn’t have, I would have walked down that lobby in support of the motion to ban gay conversion therapy," she said.

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