Joint statement from FPA and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health
We are delighted with today’s outcome that will pave the way for Irish women to access the healthcare they need in their own country.
The UK government must now ensure that women in Northern Ireland, who are being forced to continue pregnancies against their will or being forced to travel overseas to access the reproductive services they need, are not left behind.
Abortion in Northern Ireland is only available in exceptional circumstances - this does not include in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal anomaly.
As a result, women are being silenced, stigmatised and criminalised by Victorian laws that are outdated, out of line with public opinion and in violation of international human rights laws.
Last year, at least 724 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England to access an abortion. This is despite the fact that all polls indicate that the vast majority of people support reform of Northern Ireland’s restrictive law.
In February this year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) called the law in Northern Ireland “a grave and systemic violation of rights” and recommended that abortion be decriminalised. Following this, a historic vote took place in Belfast City Council in which 34 councillors, representing seven political parties, supported a motion to decriminalise abortion. Only 16 councillors opposed and the motion was passed which shows the current political appetite in Northern Ireland to progress this issue.
There is currently no devolved government in Northern Ireland. However, even when power-sharing returns, the UK government is responsible for ensuring that Northern Ireland complies with human rights treaties ratified by the UK, including the recommendations made by CEDAW.
Westminster must act to ensure this outdated, unpopular and inhumane law is brought into the 21st century.