There were mixed views on a motion brought by the DUP at the main meeting of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, in respect of perinatal care provision, which saw some members state it was a separate matter from recent abortion legislation changes, which featured heavily in the debate.

Tabled by Councillor Mark Buchanan (DUP), it read: “This Council believes that in pregnancy both lives matter – the mother and the unborn child. This commitment to the rights of both must be reflected in the support provided to mothers, the unborn children and their families throughout their pregnancy. This council calls for a Perinatal Hospice Care facility or service in Northern Ireland to be established to provide the best medical and emotional support for those who are faced with the diagnosis of a severe life-limiting condition.”

The motion continued: “This council regrets the recent amendment of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill in Westminster to include the imposition of widespread access to abortion up to the point of viability … and regrets this was proposed without any consultation with people here.”

Councillor Buchanan argued the Secretary of State should be written to, “Reflecting the position of council.”

He said, “It is highly regrettable we have come to this point. We recognise this is a very sensitive issue. It affects the position of woman in our society and the unborn child. Both lives do matter. The unborn child is in position of vulnerability and there must be support for mothers facing a crisis pregnancy. The law is difficult and delicate to balance.”

Although recognising specific and traumatic situations, Councillor Buchanan told the chamber that he felt it necessary to bring this motion due to the fast movement of the recent Bill in Westminster.

He said: “Sadly the Bill was hijacked by MPs and used without consultation with Northern Ireland residents. MPs treated the people of Northern Ireland with great contempt in the way they tacked on amendments, without consultations. We are now in the bizarre position of a vacuum of five months, with even more liberal laws than in Republic of Ireland. Unlike the original Act, the terms will have to be consulted on. There is no protection in law for conscious objector and others within the health care profession.”

However, Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh said: “Frankly, I am genuinely disgusted at this DUP motion and many share that opinion, of presenting perinatal hospice care into this debate. Women have the right to full bodily choices which they have to date been denied, while continuing to suffer a range of disadvantages in society including inadequate child care, impacting on those who can’t afford to have children.”

He added,:“I agree we shouldn’t have had to wait for Westminster for equality, but it is entirely wrong to link that to perinatal hospice provision.”

Councillor Victor Warrington (UUP) asked: “If this motion is really relevant? It has been overtaken by events.”

He encouraged participation in the pending public consultation to allow all views to be considered.

Councillor Josephine Deehan (Independent) commended Councillor Buchanan for bring the motion and agreed the issue, “is a very difficult area for many. It is extremely emotive and often a source of divisions between people and indeed between families”.

She said: “As a doctor, when I see a pregnant woman, I see two lives, and that is an undoubtable fact. From the earliest point, everything is done to protect the child inter-uteri. If a woman delivers a baby with extreme prematurity, everything will be done to save that life. Paradoxically, in a termination at a similar gestational stage, a human life is destroyed. I believe this is wrong.”

Councillor Deehan contended: “A woman carrying a child with a Fatal Foetal Abnormality, needs support and it’s right as a society we provide that support. The existing perinatal services do pull out all stops regardless of whether the child is stillborn or lives for 1 hour, I day or 1 week and so on.”

She concluded: “I regret the corruption of democracy that has brought about this situation which will endanger women’s lives, as to where, why or who carries out abortions.”

Sinn Fein’s Councillor Stephen McCann called for “appropriate and compassionate care for women. We believe should be based on equality, rights and respect. The DUP’s anti-equality agenda is hampering this. It is untenable and unacceptable”.

He handed forward an Amended Motion which read, “This Council regrets the Assembly is not in place to provide modern health care for women, including terminations where a woman’s life, health or mental health is at risk, and in cases of Fatal Foetal Abnormality and sexual crime. Council recognises that it is not possible to legislate for abortion in the case of rape in a compassionate way.”

The motion continued: “Council accepts that termination without specific indication should be available for a limited gestational period through a GP-led service in a clinical context.”

Councillor O’Cofaigh highlighted this was a different motion with, “a fundamental change of issue. The original specifically states perinatal, the amended does not.”

Speaking for the SDLP, Councillor Mary Garrity said, “I make no secret I am pro-life and I do respect other people’s views. But it was really a sad day when that came in. There is a doctor sitting here in the chamber clearly articulating the position.”

Throwing her support behind the motion Councillor McGarrity also highlighted issues down the line after an abortion and warned, “mental health issues will really soar through the roof”.

The chair Councillor Siobhan Currie enquired if Councillor Buchanan wished to amend his motion in respect of that submitted by Councillor McCann, but he refused.

A vote was taken with 13 members for the motion, 17 against and three abstentions, causing the motion to fall.