Stormont rally opposes any abortion law change

Ian Paisley Jr and Rosemary Dana Scallon, The gathering included DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr, former MEP Rosemary Dana Scallon, and Fianna Fail Senator Jim Walsh

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Campaigners and politicians from NI and the Irish Republic have gathered at Stormont to oppose any change to abortion laws on the island of Ireland.

The gathering was sponsored by the DUP and SDLP.

It included DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr, former MEP Rosemary Dana Scallon, and Fianna Fail Senator Jim Walsh.

Mr Paisley urged Sinn Fein to rethink its opposition to a DUP, SDLP amendment that would prevent private clinics in NI from carrying out abortions.

Mr Paisley said a Catholic priest from west Belfast had approached him to express concern about the issue.

Bernie Kelly from Precious Life, which campaigns against abortion, said her organisation had launched a Facebook campaign challenging Sinn Fein's attitude.

Sinn Fein has said it opposes a plan to amend Northern Ireland's law and stop abortions performed outside the NHS.

Caitriona Ruane said the move by the DUP's Paul Givan and the SDLP's Alban Maginness was an attempt to restrict a woman's right to obtain a termination in life-threatening circumstances.

The amendment to the criminal justice bill will be debated and voted on in the Northern Ireland Assembly next Tuesday.

Sinn Fein has not said if it will attempt to block the change.

Mr Givan and Mr Maginness unveiled a joint amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill on Wednesday.

They said they were confident it would win sufficient support to be passed into law in Northern Ireland this year.

They said they were closing a loophole in the law.

The plan to amend the law follows the opening of a private abortion and family planning clinic in Belfast last autumn.

Marie Stopes International has said it operates within the current law in Northern Ireland, which is different from the rest of the UK as it only allows for abortion when the mother's physical or mental health is in danger.

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