SDLP to vote against Justice Bill amendments

New leadership team and a new raft of MLAs fueled speculation that there might be a change in policy from the SDLP on this issue. Particularly since the new leader was stressing the “progressive” elements of his platform.

However,  the party has decided to stick to it’s current policy and vote against the amendments to the Justice Bill in the Assembly today.

A party spokesperson said;

The SDLP is a pro-life party and we do not support the extension of the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland. We will be voting against these amendments.

We support the view of clinicians that these amendments are flawed. The party has also sought and received legal advice which confirms this view.

The Justice Bill was not intended for this purpose and these last minute amendments from individual members of the Alliance Party are no way to deal with the complexity of this issue.

The SDLP recognise that this is one of the most sensitive issues faced by women here. We recognise it needs to be addressed.

We are today calling on the Minister of Health to publish the new guidelines as a matter of urgency. This is what senior medics have asked for. We support that call.

We note the working group being set up by the Minister for Health. The SDLP will engage with others in this process and we encourage all interested and affected parties and individuals to do so too.

I know outside of the Stormont bubble this policy will in reality do little to hurt the party and that MLA’s such as Alex Attwood did say a while back that he did support terminations in the cases of fatal foetal abnormality, but later the then SDLP leader, Alasdair McDonnell said the party was opposed to abortion in all cases.

(6 mins in Attwood comments from 2013)

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs