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Northern Ireland to consult on removing protections for unborn babies with disabilities.

In a similar vein to its Irish neighbours, Northern Ireland is now considering widening its grounds for abortion. The 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland which is governed by the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, and the Criminal Justice Act 1945. These laws only allow terminations to save a woman's life, or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health. Originally reported in the Irish Times, there is to be a public consultation, lasting 12 weeks in 2014, which has been initiated by Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister, David Ford. He is insistent the change would only be applicable to a small minority of cases and not like the neighbours “across the water” and would focus again on cases where a baby had been diagnosed with a “fatal foetal abnormality”. However, it has also been discussed that cases could be considered where incest and rape were factors.

Both Dr Saunders, of Christian Medical Fellowship and Christian Concern have expressed their concern over such measures, as Saunders aptly summarises,

“Presently the law in Northern Ireland offers legal protection to babies with disability. But were it to change, even for extreme cases, the British experience demonstrates how things would quickly escalate and how public attitudes would change…We must resist any attempts to weaken it further.”




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