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Fatal Foetal Abnormality: Legislation

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 10th October 2016.

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Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance 2:30 pm, 10th October 2016

T6. Mrs Long asked the Minister of Health, following on from Mr Kennedy's question, what will happen if that panel recommends legislation and how that will be taken forward in a timely manner, given that the Justice Minister has already indicated that her intention is not to bring forward legislation this year. (AQT 301/16-21)

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

I will obviously continue to discuss the issue with the Justice Minister. We have to be guided by the working group we put in place to do a job and bring back recommendations on how we need to do things differently. I suppose it will be for the Executive to decide how we take it forward, but I will bring the report that the working group produces over the next days to the Executive in its entirety. If there is a recommendation for legislative change, I will certainly be up for making that legislative change.

Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance

I thank the Minister for the openness of her response on the issue. She will be aware that it is three years since Sarah Ewart was diagnosed and Ella Ewart very sadly passed away. She will be aware that women who are faced with that diagnosis do not have time on their side in making their decisions. Can she confirm that she will treat this as a matter of urgency to ensure that the decisions they have to make are treated with the respect and dignity they need to be in terms of the courts and the law?

Photo of Michelle O'Neill Michelle O'Neill Sinn Féin

Absolutely. I can without reservation say that that is the case. This is a priority. This is an issue that has been left in the ether for too long. No matter what their choice is, we need to support these women. The working group was established as soon as I came into office; I made sure that it set about its task. As I said, I will receive that report in the next number of days, and I intend to bring it to the Executive for full consideration.