Assembly buries head in sand

Before they discussed the AWB, the Assembly had a lengthy debate yesterday on the Department of Health’s draft guidelines on termination of pregnancy. The motion, proposed by the DUP’s Iris Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson both of whom made reference to this petition, opposed “the introduction of the proposed guidelines on the termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland; believes that the guidelines are flawed; and calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to abandon any attempt to make abortion more widely available in Northern Ireland.” After the second half of the debate the Assembly resolved, without a recorded vote, in favour of the motion. Leaving the Health Minister to re-draft guidelines which took 3 years to draft and which the Department, after a lengthy court battle, had to be instructed by a High Court ruling to produce. However, despite the expressed concerns of various MLAs during the debate, the legislation involved is a reserved matter and, as such, the proposed guidelines do not, as some argued, change the legal position here on this issue.The MLAs resolved the following

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That this Assembly opposes the introduction of the proposed guidelines on the termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland; believes that the guidelines are flawed; and calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to abandon any attempt to make abortion more widely available in Northern Ireland.

Sending the Health Minister back to the drawing board.. [Have the NI Human Rights Commission got anything to say? – Ed]

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