Women ‘furious’ over move to tighten North abortion law, pro-choice campaigners say

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said she believes Sinn Féin are trying to restrict access

Brid Smyth, People Before Profit TD. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Pro-choice abortion campaigners have said that women in the North are “furious” after Sinn Féin proposed tightening legislation in cases of non-fatal foetal abnormalities.

On Tuesday the Northern Assembly passed a DUP motion calling for the rejection of abortion law enacted at Westminster and more specifically rejecting terminations in cases of non-fatal foetal abnormality.

Sinn Féin opposed the DUP motion but did not support abortion in cases of non- fatal foetal disability.

A party amendment which solely dealt with abortions in cases such as Down syndrome was defeated. Sources in Sinn Féin have denied that there is any disconnect between the party’s stance in the South, where it was in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment, and the position in the North.


“I don’t see any disconnect. We were attempting to afford women the same opportunity and safeguards north and south. There is no contradiction. There are people with different views in the party but we decided the position at an Ard Fheis. We formulated our policy in a democratic way. There is no confusion,” a senior source said.

People Before Profit TD Brid Smith said she believes Sinn Féin are trying to restrict access to abortion in Northern Ireland which she said was “disappointing.”

She said she wrote to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald earlier this week and asked her to drop the amendment.

“What women are saying to me in the North is that this is putting restrictions on access and they are furious with Sinn Féin. It is unfortunate, a lot of people appealed to them and wrote to their MLAs. It is not a full pro-choice position and to me this kind of shows that they have never really had a full pro-choice position.”

Former Fianna Fáil TD Lisa Chambers who was at the fore of her party’s campaign to Repeal the Eighth said she was “not surprised at Sinn Féin’s actions in the North on this issue.”

“Having served on the Oireachtas Eighth amendment committee I witnessed first-hand the Sinn Féin representatives really struggle with this. They were certainly curtailed in their approach and if you look back at their voting record you’ll see they didn’t support the 12 weeks proposal at committee, even though some of their members very much wanted to. They were trying to keep their toes on both sides of the debate and I presume this was in part due to taking a different approach in the north and being under pressure from the DUP to be more conservative.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times