Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Current Position in Northern Ireland on Abortion

1) Current Position in Northern Ireland

· Women in NI are not entitled to the same funded NHS care for abortion as other tax payers. Women in Northern Ireland have fewer rights to abortion than women living in Italy or the Republic of Ireland. They are still subject to the 1861 Offences against the Person Act as NI was excluded from the 1967 Abortion Act.

· The status quo violates Northern Irish womens’ rights as UK citizens under the European Convention on Human Rights, the Convention on Ending all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

· Women in NI do not have the same reproductive and abortion rights that the UK government advocates for women in developing countries, and funds, in the interests of safe motherhood and family planning.

· A woman who is raped or a victim of incest or both, or carrying a foetus with major congenital abnormalities is not entitled to an abortion in Northern Ireland. They are expected to continue the pregnancy and give birth

· The only grounds for a legal abortion in Northern Ireland are where 'there is a threat to the life of the woman, or a risk of real and serious harm to her long-term or permanent health (physical or mental)'. 60-80 abortions are performed in Northern Ireland each year on this basis.

· Department of Health statistics show that in 2007 alone, 1,343 Northern Irish women travelled to England and Wales for a private abortion. Since the 1967 Abortion Act, official data show that almost 50,000 women have travelled from Northern Ireland to England and Wales to access abortion.

· NI women are not entitled to NHS funding for abortion, so must find at short notice up to £2,000 to pay for travel, accommodation and the cost of abortion. Only better-off women can afford this, adding to the inequity of access to healthcare for poorer, more vulnerable women. No help is available for young women, less wealthy women, unsupported, socially excluded women, learning disabled women, women with uncertain residency status in this respect.

· There have been recorded deaths of women from illegal back-street abortion in Northern Ireland.

· Abortion is not a devolved matter to Scotland, but, exceptionally, is proposed to be devolved to Northern Ireland when they take responsibility for the criminal law in future. Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster voted in May 2008 to reduce the upper time limit for abortions to 12 weeks in England, Scotland and Wales. Abortion is a free vote issue in the Commons at every stage of the HFE Bill.

2) fpa are campaigning to extend access to abortion to women in Northern Ireland -

3) Voice for Choice is a coalition of charities and groups calling for policymakers to defend and extend women's choice on abortion -

4) Amendments to the Abortion Act 1967 tabled to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill appear as new clauses, as abortion is not contained within the text of the Bill. The amendment tabled is New Clause 30.

New Clause 30 Amendment of the Abortion Act 1967: Application to Northern Ireland

Diane Abbott, Jacqui Lait, Dr Evan Harris, Katy Clark, John Bercow, John McDonnell

To move the following Clause:—

'(1) Section 7 of the Abortion Act 1967 (c.87) (short title, commencement and extent) is amended as follows.

(2) For subsection (3) substitute—

"(3) This Act extends to Northern Ireland.".’

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