North bids to clarify legal status of abortion
Gerry Moriarty Irish Times July 17th 2008
The Department of Health in Northern Ireland has embarked on a consultation process
to try to establish clearly when abortions are legal in the North.
The 1967 British Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland and the four main parties
oppose its extension to the North. Under current legislation, abortions are permitted in the
North 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)'
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey initiated the consultation after the Family Planning
Association in the North succeeded in a 2004 judicial review requiring the department to
clarify the circumstances in which a termination of pregnancy is legal in Northern
'The department is required to produce guidance on the termination of pregnancy in
Northern Ireland. It is important to note that this guidance does not and cannot change
the current law on abortion in Northern Ireland' said a spokeswoman for the department.
'Health professionals involved in this area of work have told us they are uncertain about
the law in relation to abortion, and this guidance offers clinical advice to help them make
informed decisions and take appropriate action. It is intended that, following consultation,
the finalised guidance will be published in early October 2008.'
The consultation started yesterday and will run for 10 weeks.