News

Council abortion motion is defeated

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

A NOTICE of motion calling for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to support abortion law change in Northern Ireland has been defeated.
The motion was brought forward by Alliance councillor, Patrick Brown. It read: "This Council welcomes the 'yes' vote in the Republic of Ireland to Repeal the 8th Amendment, and endorses future legislative change of the abortion law in Northern Ireland which would allow women here access to free, safe and legal abortion."
During the course of the debate, Cllr Brown accepted what he called a "watered-down" Sinn Fein amendment to the motion, which changed it to the following: "This Council acknowledges the 'yes' vote in the South of Ireland to Repeal the 8th Amendment; believes that full information and non-directive pregnancy counselling embodying all choices should be freely available to women, and calls for a compassionate human rights compliant approach to healthcare, acknowledging women should have access to safe and appropriate healthcare and thus endorses legislative reform and decriminalisation of abortion."
The motion was defeated by 19 votes to 10 by councillors in attendance at the monthly meeting of the council, held on Tuesday night. Members of the SDLP voted against the motion after confirming that all 14 of their councillors held a pro-life stance.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Brown said he was "disappointed but not altogether surprised" that councillors had voted against the motion.
“It was particularly frustrating that all UUP and SDLP members voted against the motion, despite Sinn Fein putting in an amendment which actually somewhat watered down my original motion (I was willing to accept it however, in the interests of compromise and on the grounds that it called for decriminalisation of abortion).
“It was also disappointing that the motion was voted down 19 votes to 10. All Alliance and Sinn Fein councillors present voted for. There are actually 41 councillors elected to NMD Council, yet only 29 were present, which was a pretty poor effort I thought.
“Despite some very personal comments and accusations from several SDLP Councillors, who I am very shocked voted comprehensively against the motion given their recent policy change allowing a free vote on abortion, I was proud to have openly debated this important issue tonight and thank most Council colleagues for their respectful contributions to the motion."
The SDLP members voted against a subsequent amendment from Sinn Fein on the issue which they stated was "too vague."
Newry City SDLP Councillor Michael Savage led the debate on the party's behalf and informed the meeting that all 14 of the SDLP Councillors including the two councillors who could not attend due to work commitments are "unapologetically pro-life."
Speaking after the meeting Cllr Savage said: "All 14 SDLP councillors wanted to put it on the recordthat we are pro-life and against abortion on demand. We wanted to reassure our party members and supporters in this district that we remain true to the values of being a pro-life party.
“We voiced our opposition to a motion from Alliance councillor Patrick Brown which in our view was calling for abortion on demand to be introduced to Northern Ireland.
“The subsequent amendment from Sinn Fein, while we acknowledged some merits within its content, we believed the wording was too vague and open to misinterpretation and we voted against it to remain true to our pro-life principles."
During the debate Cllr Savage told the chamber: "The SDLP, contrary to some media interpretations, is and has been from its inception a Pro-life Party and I want to reassure all our party supporters out there that the SDLP councillors that represent them in Newry, Mourne and Down are unapologetically pro-life.
“We are pro-life with a compassionate understanding of the need to ensure that women who find themselves in the trauma of a crisis pregnancy are given all the medical, emotional and practical support they need."

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