NI: David Ford says abortion law left ‘in limbo’

Justice Minister David Ford
Justice Minister David Ford

Justice Minister David Ford has said Northern Ireland’s abortion laws will remain “in limbo” for some time, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

He has criticised the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for proposing that a working group under Health Minister Simon Hamilton should examine the issue of abortion in the event of fatal foetal abnormality.

Mr Ford said the issue is principally a criminal justice one and is therefore “the responsibility of the Department of Justice and me as minister, not the responsibility of the Department of Health”.

The Department of Justice conducted a consultation on changes to abortion law between October 2014-January 2015.

Mr Ford told MLAs this week that he had contacted Mr Hamilton in May 2014 to examine the prospect of “a joint consultation paper by the two Departments, given that there were issues which spanned Health and Justice” and received no response.

During the debate on abortion amendments to the Justice (No. 2) Bill, he suggested the new proposed consultation under Mr Hamilton would not be genuine.

He said: “Mr Speaker, we have had a long period of time in which any genuine consultation or discussion of the issues was rejected by the Health Minister and other DUP Ministers.

“I must say that the coincidence of timing with regard to a number of factors and the way in which these things have been addressed suggests to me that there is little to assure us that there is a genuine intention to consult. That could have been done at any time over the last year-plus, and it has not happened. I really have some doubts as to why it was proposed yesterday.”

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