The GSD notes that the Government intends to produce a command paper on abortion probably by the end of the summer. The Government has stated that that command paper will consult on amendments to the Crimes Act.
It remains to be seen to what extent the Government are envisaging changes to the existing law on abortion.
This is an issue that requires the utmost care. The recent judgment of the UK Supreme Court which seems to be motivating a desire by Government to contemplate changes in the law was hardly a unanimous endorsement that there should be wide-ranging changes in Northern Ireland. The judgment was mixed and only reached by a slim majority of 4-3. The judges also recognized that the Northern Irish law pursued a legitimate aim of protecting the life, health and welfare of the unborn child. Only in very restricted and defined extreme circumstances of fatal foetal abnormality, rape or incest did the court, by majority, think the law was too restrictive in Northern Ireland. The Judgment is not an endorsement of abortion on demand.
The GSD does not consider that decisions on this issue should be taken by Government or by Parliament in haste. The production of a command paper within a short period of weeks is far too accelerated on an issue such as this.
The GSD has been considering this issue for some months. It is undertaking its own consultation process to conclude its own policy consideration in this important area. The GSD has already met the Pro-Life Movement and has requested to meet the Pro-Choice lobby to consider the views of both groups. GSD Leader Keith Azopardi has formed a sub-committee of the Party which will table recommendations for the Party’s Executive. It will also consider any Command Paper issued by Government and any changes in the law the Government is contemplating.
“This is an issue deserving of the most serious and careful consideration. We make no apologies for thinking this process should not be hurried. At this stage we have not yet reached the point at which we are ready to make any policy announcements but we will do so in coming months as necessary. Additionally we make clear that if what is eventually proposed by Government is not, in our view, appropriate or in the public interest we would not support such changes” said Keith Azopardi.