Move to give Northern Irish women full family planning rights
MPs seek equal access to abortion for all women in the UK by extending 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland
For IMMEDIATE release: 9.30am Wednesday 23rd July 2008
Today a cross-party group of MPs have tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill intending to give women in Northern Ireland- for the first time- the right to fair and rapid access to safe, legal abortion care when they need it.
Currently Northern Irish women are the only women in the UK who do not have access to safe abortion and are denied the NHS treatment and funding for abortion permitted to other UK women. Northern Ireland is not covered by the 1967 Abortion Act.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is expected to reach report stage in the House of Commons after the summer recess – probably some time from mid-October. MPs will have a free vote on this issue then.
Dr Audrey Simpson, Director of fpa (Family Planning Association) Northern Ireland said
“A Northern Irish woman in the twenty first century who is the victim of rape or incest is expected to give birth, or find up to £2,000 to travel for treatment in England where women have the right to access safe abortion. These are a vulnerable group of women who need support – not to be forced to find money and travel long distances on their own.”
Diane Abbot MP, who has tabled the new clause, said
“This fundamental inequity must be remedied. Forty years after the 1967 Act women in Northern Ireland are still facing conditions more reminiscent of the 19th century. All women in the UK must be given fair and rapid access to safe, legal abortion when they need it. The Abortion Act must be extended to include women in Northern Ireland.”
Marge Berer, Chair of Voice for Choice the coalition of pro-choice groups in the UK, said:
“This is an opportunity for the voices of the women of Northern Ireland to be heard. The UK Parliament must stop ignoring the needs of its own citizens.”
The move to end health inequality by giving women in Northern Ireland access to safe, legal abortion is supported by the British Medical Association, fpa¸ British Pregnancy Advisory Service, MSI, Brook, Antenatal Results and Choices, Abortion Rights, Doctors for a Woman’s Choice on Abortion, Education for Choice, the Pro-Choice Forum, the Trade Union Movement and religious groups.