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Amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which could have legalised abortion in Northern Ireland have been shelved, reports the Telegraph.

MPs who put forward the amendments:

…have changed their minds after being privately warned by ministers that with the Stormont executive close to collapse, the move could tip the province’s politicians into withdrawing from negotiations.

The MPs still plan to push ahead with separate plans to make access to abortion easier in the rest of the country by removing the requirement for two doctors’ signatures and allowing nurses to carry out early-stage terminations, however.

The socialist feminist group Feminist Fightback also put out a press release saying that the government may table a programme motion which would prevent the discussion of Northern Irish women’s right to reproductive freedom:

Alice Robson, Reproductive Freedoms Campaigner with Feminist Fightback, said:

“We are deeply dismayed that the Government have failed to challenge politicians in Northern Ireland, 83% of whom are men, who are holding women’s rights to ransom by disingenuously citing the peace process. Given that all major parties in Northern Ireland have anti-choice policies, the argument that this could jeopardise the process does not even make political sense.

“We call on the Government to allow proper democratic process with sufficient time for pro-choice amendments to be discussed. We should be using this historic opportunity to enable all women in the UK to have a genuine right to choose.”

Brenda Callaghan, of the Northern Irish Alliance for Choice Campaign said:

“At least 40 women per week make the heart-breaking decision to travel to England or to Europe, many of them alone, to have an abortion. They receive no follow-up healthcare, and are being treated as second class citizens within the UK. This is very much a class issue as it impacts greatly on working class women who have to find around £2500 for a termination, and it must end now.”