Ulster Unionist Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MLA, has welcomed the publication of the report from the inter-Departmental working group on termination of pregnancies in fatal foetal abnormality cases but has slammed the fact that no Executive is in place to consider or implement any of its recommendations.
Doug Beattie said:
“The matter of abortion is, and will remain, a matter of conscience for all members of the Ulster Unionist Party.
“It was in February 2016 when the Assembly debated a proposal to amend the law to permit abortion in the very difficult area of fatal foetal abnormalities. In a desperate attempt to block any genuine vote, the DUP only called for the creation of the working group as a substitute for using a petition of concern.
“The working group was meant to have reported within six months; that didn’t happen. In fact, it didn’t even meet at all for the first four months. My Party had to drag information out of the Health and Justice Departments just to learn who even sat on the working group. It was clear from the very start the group and any subsequent findings were not going to be given the prominence and respect that such a serious issue deserved.
“Hopes were raised whenever it later came to light that the working group had completed its work and had sent the report to the relevant Ministers. There was always an expectation that it would then be published for the public to see yet this optimism quickly disappeared when it became clear that the First and deputy First Ministers were intent on doing everything they could to keep it hidden.
“I repeatedly called on the Justice Minister Claire Sugden to publish the report, she refused. Even though she was supposedly an independent voice during her time in the Executive she wasn’t even willing or able to decide whether she supported the publication of it at all.
“Now that the report has at long last been published it makes for sobering but thought-provoking reading and we should all sit up and listen when a report such as this conclusively states that our health workers simply find the current situation to be professionally untenable.
“It now simply rubs salt into the wounds that in the continuing absence of an Executive or functioning Assembly, the report had to be published by the Civil Service and none of its conclusions or recommendations can be implemented.”