Following the General Election, the Conservative Party is forming a Government with the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This has rightly focused public attention across the UK on the DUP’s record in the Northern Ireland Assembly, where the party has been unwilling to reform restrictive abortion law and has blocked marriage equality for Northern Ireland’s LGBT community.
Laura Russell, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for the sexual health charity FPA, said:
"FPA believes that the Conservative government must legislate for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland. The UK government is responsible for human rights across the UK, and courts and the United Nations have ruled on multiple occasions that Northern Ireland’s restrictive law contravenes these rights.
"Any potential arrangement with the DUP must not prevent the UK from meeting any human rights commitments. Instead, the Conservative Party must use any partnership with the DUP to discuss the impact of Northern Ireland’s abortion law and bring it into the 21st century.
"This year is particularly relevant, given that 2017 marks the 50th Anniversary since the introduction of the Abortion Act, which granted women across Great Britain reproductive choice, through access to legal, safe, state-funded abortion care. But this Act was never extended to Northern Ireland. FPA sees the impact of this law every day through our pregnancy choices counselling service in Northern Ireland, which supports women facing unplanned or crisis pregnancies.
"The law means that women in Northern Ireland who require an abortion have to travel and pay privately to get one, at a cost that can reach thousands of pounds. FPA believes that, while working to change the law in Northern Ireland, the Conservative Party should commit to funding abortion services for women who have travelled from Northern Ireland to England or Wales.
"The alternative taken by some women seeking abortion in Northern Ireland is to buy medical abortion pills online, which is illegal and leaves them vulnerable to prosecution.
"This has happened recently. One 21-year-old woman was handed a suspended sentence, while a man and woman have accepted a police caution. While talks continue between the Conservatives and the DUP, more women in Northern Ireland are awaiting trial for procuring their own abortion.
"The situation is a clear abuse of human rights. Irrespective of a deal with the DUP, these are human rights that the UK Government in Westminster has a responsibility to uphold."