The debate over abortion in Northern Ireland is a fraught and deeply complex one. There are strongly held views in favour of and against the law as it currently stands in Northern Ireland. For those who are not following the ins and outs of the debate on abortion here in Northern Ireland, it can be difficult to understand where our political parties stand. As Both Lives Matter we believe that law services and culture matter and that opposing abortion is not enough. We long to see parties supporting both women and unborn children in policies which affirm life and help it to flourish in every way possible.
The positions outlined below are drawn from the manifesto documents of political parties, official report contributions of members of political parties and statements given to the press. It is important to stress that the views outlined below are the official positions of the parties, individual elected representatives within political parties may hold different views on these matters.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
The Democratic Unionist Party describes itself as being a pro-life party. DUP MLAs and MPs have consistently voted against any change to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland and at Westminster. They have also committed in a party manifesto to better support services including perinatal hospice care. All DUP MLAs present at the Assembly in 2016 voted against legislative amendments which would have legalised abortion in Northern Ireland on the grounds of unborn children having life-limiting conditions or on the grounds of sexual crime.
Sinn Fein is an island-wide party which is in favour of changing the law on abortion in Northern Ireland to make it available for almost any reason in line with legislation in the Republic of Ireland . In 2018 at a special meeting following the Referendum on abortion law in the Republic of Ireland they voted to change their party policy to support abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, and in case of ‘fatal foetal abnormality, sexual crime and any risk to health or life . They also support removing abortion from the protections afforded by criminal law. The party voted against allowing for a conscience vote on abortion which in part lead some former members to create a new party – Aontú.
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)
The party voted on 19th May 2018, ahead of the Referendum on abortion law in the Republic of Ireland to reaffirm their pro-life policy but to allow a conscience vote. On paper the SDLP is a prolife party but members can actively campaign and vote for any policy they like relating to abortion. The party have also entered into a partnership with Fianna Fáil whose public representatives were permitted to campaign for different sides in the Referendum. Our advice is to contact local councillors and MLAs to find out where they stand on this issue.
Ulster Unionist Party (UUP)
For the Ulster Unionist Party, abortion is viewed as a matter of personal conscience for elected representatives and party members. Some elected representatives support the law on abortion as it currently stands. Others believe the law should be liberalised solely in cases involving unborn children who have life-limiting conditions and/or sexual crime while some UUP representatives go as far indicating that they are in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion which could result in abortion in all circumstances. Our advice is to contact local councillors and MLAs to find out where they stand on this issue.
For the Alliance Party, abortion is viewed as a matter of personal conscience for elected representatives and party members. However we are not aware of any public representatives who have stated that they are in favour of the law on abortion as it currently stands here. Some believe the law should be liberalised solely in cases involving unborn children who have life-limiting conditions and/or sexual crime while other representatives go as far indicating that they are in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion which could result in abortion in all circumstances. Our advice is to contact local councillors and MLAs to find out where they stand on this issue.
The Green Party across the UK state their support of abortion in every circumstance, including with no time limits, and for reasons of sex selection and disability. Their 2016/17 Assembly manifesto seeks the full decriminalisation of abortion in any circumstances in Northern Ireland. Green Party elected representatives have consistently outlined this position in the Northern Ireland Assembly and in local media. The Green Party would also seek to remove any public funding from ‘anti-choice’ groups that wished to provide counselling and advice and would not allow these groups to be advertised on any publicly funded health information or signposted from any state institution such as hospitals or schools.
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV)
The TUV stated in its 2017 Assembly Election Manifesto that they do “not believe that the unborn child should be denied his or her fundamental human rights.” TUV elected representatives have consistently stressed that the TUV is a pro-life party.
People Before Profit (PBP)
People before Profit support the choice of abortion in any circumstance. The PBP manifesto for the 2017 Assembly election stated the following: “People Before Profit trusts women to know when they can and cannot bring a child into the world. We want to see abortion treated as a health care issue between a woman and her doctor- legal, safe and available free on the NHS. PBP have indicated that they are in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
This party was formed in January 2019 following the decision of Sinn Féin not to allow a conscience vote on the issue of abortion. The party has representatives across the island and describe themselves in this way – “Aontú is 100% Pro Life. We seek the Right to Life of everyone irrespective of age, gender, race, creed, abilities or stage of development. We seek a humane and compassionate response to unwanted pregnancies .”