Friday, October 10, 2008

Twenty First Anniversary of Historic Ruling to Extend Abortion to Northern Ireland

Press Release from fpa: Friday 10 October 2008

Twenty first anniversary of historic ruling to extend abortion to Northern Ireland

This week marks the twenty-first anniversary of an historic announcement by an International Tribunal of lawyers, civil libertarians, doctors and academics who found that the UK Government should extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. Despite this women in Northern Ireland are still waiting for the same rights that women in Britain have. The tribunal organised by the Northern Ireland Abortion Law Reform Association, on the 7 and 8 of October 1987, heard evidence from local women, doctors, lawyers and support and advice agencies of the consequences of denying women access to abortion.

On the 8 of October 1987, the tribunal made this statement:

“We believe that the UK government has an obligation to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland…Women in Northern Ireland should have at least the same rights as women in the rest of the UK. We believe the extension of the Act will reduce the unnecessary and inhumane suffering women in Northern Ireland are forced to endure through unwanted pregnancy.”

In July of this year, The United Nations Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, also voiced its concern that abortion continues to be illegal in Northern Ireland with detrimental consequences for women’s health.

An amendment has been put down by Diane Abbott MP to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland as part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill being passed through parliament. This is seen by many as the last chance to secure equal reproductive rights for women in Northern Ireland before criminal justice is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Audrey Simpson, Director of fpa in Northern Ireland, said:

“The anniversary of the tribunal is a powerful reminder to Westminster MPs voting on the amendment in the coming weeks, that people in Northern Ireland want the same rights to abortion as women have in Britain: and they have done for many years. Twenty-one years has passed by us, and it is unacceptable that Northern Irish women are still at the peril of an outdated, arbitrary and restrictive law on abortion. Women in Northern Ireland have been waiting decades to secure the same rights to reproductive health care services as women in Britain. The rights of women can no longer remain invisible in the context of abortion.”

Professor Bill Rolston, Professor of Sociology at the University of Ulster, and a founding member of the NIALRA, said:

“While the last 30 years have seen a global trend toward liberalization of national abortion laws, Northern Ireland has not taken the opportunity to lift the restrictions on abortion and afford women better reproductive choice. It is an urgent priority for the women of Northern Ireland to have the right to a safe and legal abortion, and that this right is not unduly restricted.”

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