Sinn Fein votes ‘decisively’ to relax abortion law across Ireland

Northern Ireland moves closer to legalising abortion after Sinn Fein voted in favour of liberalising abortion laws across island following referendum in the Republic

  • Sinn Fein party members voted strongly in favour of relaxing abortion laws
  • Sinn Fein represents a strong political voice in Northern Ireland and the Republic
  • British government has rejected calls to intervene & legislate in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has moved a step closer to legalising abortion after Sinn Fein voted in favour of liberalising abortion laws across Ireland.

Party members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move and said the procedure should be provided through a GP-led service for a ‘limited gestational period’.

The republicans represent an influential political voice in both countries, with the mood likely to have been triggered following the Republic of Ireland’s abortion referendum last month.

The British government has resisted renewed calls to step in and legislate for abortion in Northern Ireland due to the lack of government in Belfast and the political alliance with the DUP.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (right) and vice president Michelle O’Neill (left) wave to the crowd during the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis

The DUP are strongly opposed to any relaxation of abortion laws in Northern Ireland and are likely to try to thwart any legal changes in the country.

Sinn Finn vice president Michelle O’Neill said: ‘Sinn Fein refuses to hide. It will address this issue with compassion and will show the leadership that is required.’

Last month’s referendum in the Republic of Ireland was the latest in a number of long-standing conservative constitutional provisions. 

Senior members in Sinn Fein said loosening abortion restrictions in Northern Ireland was the next priority. 

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The motion endorsed by delegates at the ard fheis (party conference) said the procedure should be provided through a GP-led service in a clinical context as determined by law and licensing practice for a limited gestational period.

No exact period was fixed to allow for future changes in medical advice; debate surrounds when a baby is potentially viable outside the womb.

Party members also voted to allowed terminations when a woman’s life, physical or mental health was at risk, and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, where an infant could not survive.

Stormont Assembly member Megan Fearon said: ‘I think today’s result was very decisive, overwhelmingly we clearly said we support women, we are going to treat women with compassion.

Party members also voted to allowed terminations when a woman’s life, physical or mental health was at risk, and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, where an infant could not survive

‘Gone are the days of criminalising our women and girls here in Ireland.

‘What we need to see is compassionate healthcare and we need to allow women access to safe and appropriate healthcare when they need it here at home.’

The vote in the Republic of Ireland last month will make abortion freely available under medical supervision during early pregnancy and in limited circumstances at a later date. The new legislation will come into force in the new year. 

Sinn Fein is a major force in opposition to the Fine Gael-led Republic’s Government and during the referendum campaign contained voices for and against abortion. 

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