Abortion Rights is deeply disappointed to learn that the government will not be funding the small number of legal abortions performed in Northern Ireland. As a consequence, Marie Stopes UK is no longer able to offer funded appointments in Belfast and has been forced revert to offering only paid-for, private services.
In June, Stella Creasy MP, with cross-party support, succeeded in securing free abortions in mainland Britain for Northern Irish women. The speed with which both the Scottish and Welsh governments then followed suit was indicative of the nationwide popularity of this decision.
Women in Northern Ireland are being horrifically let down. While Abortion Rights welcome, Stella Creasy’s achievement it does not go nearly far enough. It is imperative that abortion is fully legalised in Northern Ireland.
50 years after the 1967 Abortion Act, here is the situation in Northern Ireland: it has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion in Europe; life imprisonment is possible for both the woman having the abortion and anyone assisting her. Only Northern Irish women with sufficient financial means are able to access safe, legal abortions by travelling overseas to UK Mainland. Women with limited resources are forced to either carry their unwanted pregnancy to term or become a criminal by self-inducing and thus running the risk of imprisonment.
Abortion Rights pledges to continue to put pressure on political parties and holds that an organised effort to dissociate stigma around abortion could be a route to bringing the shamefully overdue legal reform. Safe abortion is a human right. In 2017, some UK citizens are more equal than others, with the poorest and most vulnerable being ignored.
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights Chair, said ‘Despite some amelioration of the situation allowing Northern Irish women to have free abortion care in England, it is hypocritical and cruel to force women to travel and not allow women their free, safe and legal healthcare in their own cities and towns. We urge the respective governments to act on this matter.’
Notes to the Editor:
- Media contact for comment and interviews Kerry Abel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Abortion Rights (AR) is the UK’s national campaign for a woman’s right to choose. abortionrights.org.uk
- Abortion Rights is a pro-choice organisation that campaigns to defend and extend women’s access to safe, free and legal abortion.
- Abortion is legal in England, Scotland and Wales provided two doctors agree the procedure is in the patient’s best interest. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk.
- Only 16 terminations of pregnancy in HSC hospitals in Northern Ireland during 2015/16.
- The majority of the British public is pro-choice. A recent YovGov pollconcludes that 93% support a woman’s right to choose.
- 3/4 of Northern Irish public support abortion law change – Amnesty poll
- More than 700 women travelled from Northern Irelandto England for an abortion in 2016
- Read our full position statement on Northern Ireland
- England, Wales and Scotland all pledge to provide NHS funded abortion care to NI women.