A Sinn Féin Assembly amendment calling for abortion regulations to be amended to prevent terminations at any time in cases of non-fatal disabilities such as Down’s syndrome has been defeated.

Sinn Féin had sought to amend a DUP motion that calls for a more generalrejection of the abortion regulations introduced in Northern Ireland as a result of a vote by MPs in Westminster last year.

  • The Sinn Féin amendment was defeated 32 votes to 52. Three MLAs voted in both lobbies, meaning their votes were not counted.

  • The DUP motion was carried by 46 votes to 40. One MLA voted in both lobbies.

The outcome of the Assembly debate will not change the regulations.

Sinn Féin said allowing abortion in such cases would not serve disabled people in Northern Ireland properly.

But campaigners accuse the party of "propping up" an anti-abortion agenda.

The procedures are available for women without restriction until the 12th week of pregnancy and are subject to more conditions after that.

Mid Ulster Assembly member Emma Sheerin said: "Our party position is one which calls for a compassionate and reasonable approach to healthcare, but not one that would see abortion treated as a mainstream, normalised option."

Ms Sheerin said it was necessary to build infrastructure which was inclusive and totally accessible to the disabled.

"Sinn Féin do not believe that a non-fatal foetal abnormality is an appropriate criterion for an abortion," she said.

She added the party was adopting a modern and compassionate approach.

"We don't support the DUP's cynical attempt to attack the entire body of human rights-compliant healthcare for women," she said.

"We are not in favour of blocking the right of women in a crisis to take a decision that they feel is the best for them just because other people areuncomfortable with it."

Legislation was passed in Westminster which liberalised Northern Ireland's strict laws governing access to the procedure.

It came into force in Northern Ireland in March.

The DUP's Stormont motion "welcomes the important intervention of disability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the imposition of abortion legislation which extends to all non-fatal disabilities, including Down Syndrome".

Sinn Féin's amendment reads: "Welcomes the important intervention ofdisability campaigner Heidi Crowter and rejects the specific legislativeprovision in the abortion legislation which goes beyond fatal foetal abnormalities to include non-fatal disabilities, including Down Syndrome."

Ms Sheerin said the DUP's motion would undermine the regulations in theirtotality, by stealth, and Sinn Féin was completely opposed to this.

She accused the Health Minister Robin Swann of abdicating hisresponsibilities and failing to give clear direction to health trusts.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has urged Assembly members to send a message to Westminster that they do not agree with the proposals that MPs are putting forward.

DUP East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting said backing her party's position would represent a vote for life.

She added: "If we do not uphold this motion we are signalling to every person with a disability that their life is valued differently to others'.

"It is wholly wrong for these discriminatory provisions to have been forcedupon us."