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NI MLAs back unpopular “safe access zones” pro abortion bill

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The results of a public consultation on whether to introduce censorship zones around abortion clinics in Northern Ireland has revealed that only only 13 (0.2%) of the 6,412 submissions from members of the public supported the Bill.  Despite this overwhelming opposition from among the general public, MLAs have voted in support of the Bill by 58 to 28 votes at Consideration Stage.

Read NI Bill passed to allow parents time off after death of unborn

The Bill would make it illegal to “influenc[e] a [person seeking an abortion], whether directly or indirectly” within “safe access zones”. This Bill, if it became law, would effectively make it illegal to offer assistance, advice or even to pray in “safe access zones” outside abortion clinics and hospitals offering abortions in Northern Ireland.

Of 6,412 responses to the consultation from members of the public in Northern Ireland, only 13 were supportive of the Bill. A report on the consultation released by the Northern Ireland Assembly in January states:

“Of the 6,412 submissions from individuals, the overwhelming majority stated their opposition to the Bill, with only thirteen submissions from individuals affirming their support”.

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This means that there was only 0.2% support for the Bill among the general public who made submissions to the consultation. 

Self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ MLAs vote in favour

Last year, a number of self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ MLAs voted in favour of the Bill. Introduced by Green Party leader Clare Bailey, which passed Second Stage in October 2021 by 58 votes to 29.

While the DUP and TUV said they were strongly opposed to it, arguing it could affect the right to protest and that such legislation was unnecessary, Sinn Féin, Alliance, the SDLP and Ulster Unionist MLAs were among parties in favour of the move. 

The SDLP is a self-proclaimed pro-life party and a number of Ulster Unionist MLAs are also self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ MLAs who court the pro-life vote in their constituencies. No SDLP or Ulster Unionist MLAs opposed the Bill. A full voting list from Second Stage is provided at the end of this article.

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NI: MLAs back bill despite only 13 of 6412 submissions for banning offering support to women outside abortion clinics  Right To Life UK

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