Abortion law in Northern Ireland explained
The fight for legal guidelines
Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland but only available in ‘exceptional circumstances’. But what these ‘circumstances’ are isn’t defined.
The Northern Ireland government have never felt able to decide on the issue. Professionals don’t want to risk breaking the law by carrying out illegal abortions and women are left not knowing what to do. Their only option is travelling outside of Northern Ireland for a private abortion.
The law that applies to abortion is the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. Under this law, women can face life imprisonment if they have an illegal abortion.
There is a lack of clarity around the interpretaion of the law. The circumstances in which a woman can and can't legally have an abortion in Northern Ireland aren't clear.
FPA think it's vital that professionals in Northern Ireland are given guidelines on when abortion is legal. We've fought in the courts in Belfast for official guidelines to be published for more than a decade.
We''ve demanded that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety publish guidelines. Professionals need to know when they can offer a legal abortion and women in Northern Ireland deserve nothing less. More about our legal challenge.
Our challenge to the UK law
In 2008 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was passed by the UK government. FPA fought hard to get the bill amended to make abortion in Northern Ireland legal.
Our attempts were stopped by the government and Northern Ireland politicians.
“Forcing women in Northern Ireland to travel to England in order to have an abortion which they have to pay for themselves makes a traumatic situation much worse.”
Dr Miriam Stoppard, FPA patron