Northern Ireland

Alasdair McDonnell foetus comments criticised by Dr Samina Dornan

Alasdair McDonnell
Image caption SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said "nobody can predict that a foetus is not viable"

A senior consultant who specialises in foetal medicine has accused SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell of undermining her profession.

Last month, Dr McDonnell, a GP, said doctors cannot predict when a foetus has a lethal abnormality.

Mr McDonnell made his comments as he stated his party's opposition to abortion in cases of lethal foetal abnormality or rape.

Dr Samina Dornan said he "undermined our professional integrity."

"He instilled a lack of confidence in the public about our ability to do our job," Dr Dornan, a consultant at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital said on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

"It's amazing that he, as a member of the UK parliament, is coming out with statements like this - and he's a doctor.

"He's telling the world that our professionals are not up to their job."

The Department of Justice (DoJ) recently ran a public consultation on proposals to change Northern Ireland's abortion law, which differs from the rest of the UK.

Currently, a termination is only legal in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The DoJ recommended allowing abortion in lethal abnormality cases.

'Never accurate'

However, speaking on the BBC's Inside Politics programme last month, Dr McDonnell said: "The SDLP is unequivocally opposed to abortion, even in those particular circumstances because basically, the predictions in those circumstances are never accurate.

"Nobody can predict that a foetus is not viable and that's the problem.

"As a GP, I'm fully aware, I have seen situations where termination or an abortion was recommended to somebody because a foetus that had this, that or the other thing, and that foetus grew up to be a perfectly normal child."

Dr McDonnell has since told the assembly he was misquoted.

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