A majority of the Stormont Assembly members this evening voted against abortion regulations for Northern Ireland that had been enacted by the Westminster Parliament last year.

The motion, proposed by DUP members, highlighting abortion provisions linked to non-fatal disabilities, was carried by 46 votes to 40.

The Assembly's decision will not require the British government to change the Northern Ireland provisions.

But the DUP leader and Northern Ireland's First Minister, Arlene Foster, said the vote will send a signal to Westminster that the Assembly does not support the regulations.

Until earlier this year Northern Ireland was the only region of the United Kingdom where abortion services were not available. 

On a cross-party basis, Westminster MPs moved to address the situation last year when the Stormont Assembly was closed due to the collapse of power-sharing.

The provisions enacted in Westminster to apply in Northern Ireland are more liberal than the regulations introduced south of the border last year following the 2018 referendum decision.

During this afternoon's two-hour Stormont debate, a number of speakers referred to the regulation which permits termination where there is a substantial risk that the foetus would die or, if born, would suffer a severe mental or physical impairment. 

They suggested this could leave the way open for terminations to be carried out, with no time limit, in cases of Down's Syndrome, cleft palate or club foot.

They cited the views of disability campaigner, Heidi Crowter, who has Down's Syndrome and who is seeking a change in the law.

Clare Bailey, the leader of Northern Ireland's Green Party, was among those who opposed today's amendment.

The pro-choice campaign group, Alliance for Choice, warned that if the regulations introduced to Northern Ireland were altered, it would lead to woman travelling to England for terminations.

Sinn Féin members stated during the Stormont debate that they would favour abortion provisions in Northern Ireland similar to those that were brought in by the Oireachtas in the Republic last year.

A separate SDLP motion calling for the UK's proposed withdrawal from the EU to be extended beyond 31 December, was carried by 50 votes to 38.

Neither vote can impact in any direct way on the policies of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's administration. But they are further evidence of how the Assembly is prepared to take issue with decisions made in Westminster that affect Northern Ireland.