Proposals to allow abortion up to birth in Northern Ireland failed yesterday after Stormont assembly members voted 59 to 40 against.
The legislation, which would have applied to abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality, incest and sexual crime, was defeated after Democratic Unionists and SDLP representatives voted against it.
The proposal to legalise abortion where the unborn child cannot survive outside the womb was tabled by Alliance party representatives Stewart Dickson and Trevor Lunn.
Mr Lunn spoke of his own “painful” decision to choose abortion because of a fatal abnormality many years ago.
“The pain of that decision lives with us today,” said Lunn.
“This is important. It is important to women and to men and it is important for the self-respect of this little country. Sooner or later we are going to have to do something about it.”
The amendment relating to pregnancies which are the result of rape or incest was put forward by Anna Lo, also of the Alliance party.
Ahead of the debate the DUP said it wanted the health minister to convene a commission to examine the issue of abortion and report back in six months.
Abortion is still restricted in Northern Ireland, where the 1968 Abortion Act does not apply. Repeated attempts by abortion groups to change the law have failed so far. Last year a judge ruled that a mother’s inability to access abortion in the province for a baby with severe disability was a “gross interference with her personal autonomy” while a disproportionate burden was placed on victims when a sexual crime occurred.