Thursday, October 09, 2008

Irish Times: Northern Ireland abortion campaigners lobby British MPs

NI abortion campaigners lobby British MPs

Campaigners pressing for the extension of abortion laws to Northern Ireland today lobbied MPs at Westminster.

Forty protestors from the Alliance for Choice group — representing the 40 women who leave Northern Ireland every week for abortions — also delivered a letter to Downing Street

The group met Labour MP Dianne Abbot, who has tabled an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill calling for an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

Abortions can currently only take place in Northern Ireland where it is proved that the woman’s physical or mental health is at risk.

Leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) Dawn Purvis was among the campaigners who travelled to Westminster and she hit out at attempts by the larger parties at Stormont to prevent a change in the law.

“I do not understand their position on women facing crisis pregnancies,” she said.

“They don’t mind if it happens in England or Wales, just not in their own backyard.

“That is not good enough.”

The East Belfast Assembly member said the current situation added to the trauma faced by women.

Ms Purvis said it also placed an additional financial burden on women from low income backgrounds who had to find the money to pay for the cost of travelling for private abortions — bills that sometimes cost up to £2,000.

She said women in Northern Ireland were being treated as second class citizens in comparison with those in Britain.

“They are not afforded the same rights as in the rest of the UK and that is a disgrace,” she said.

The Alliance for Choice’s Goretti Horgan said the group was pleased by the reception they got at Westminster.

She said many of the politicians who spoke to the Alliance group were surprised to hear the abortion laws did not extend to Northern Ireland.

Chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service Ann Furedi said: “Every year we see hundreds of Northern Irish women who travel to our clinics in Liverpool, Birmingham and London seeking abortion care.

“It’s absurd that a woman living in Newcastle, County Down, can’t access exactly the same reproductive health services that are available to women in Newcastle upon Tyne.

“Women in Northern Ireland are just as much at risk of an unintended pregnancy as women are in the rest of the UK — so they should have access to the same healthcare.”

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