After many decades of fighting for abortion rights in Northern Ireland, campaigners were awarded Liberty's prestigious Human Rights 'Long Walk' Award – on the same day that they challenged Northern Ireland's strict abortion law in court.
FPA, Alliance for Choice, and the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign accepted the award on behalf of the movement in Northern Ireland.
FPA and Alliance for Choice, along with a coalition of the United Kingdom’s leading reproductive rights organisations, are also intervening in a case this week in which the Supreme Court in London will hear that Northern Ireland's restrictive abortion law violates human rights.
The case is considering whether the existing criminal law in Northern Ireland in relation to abortion is lawful in three circumstances: where the pregnancy results from rape, or incest, or where it involves a serious fetal abnormality.
FPA has been campaigning on abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland for 50 years, and has provided a counselling service for the last 30 years, despite constant protests and harassment from anti-choice campaigners, which recently saw an FPA staff member being assaulted.
In 2001, FPA initiated the first ever legal challenge to the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, emphasising that this was an equality and human rights issue.
But as this week's court case shows, women in Northern Ireland still don’t have the same rights to abortion care afforded to women in the rest of the UK.
Ruairi Rowan, Senior Advocacy Officer for the sexual health charity FPA in Northern Ireland, said:
“The recent decision by the UK government to stop charging women from Northern Ireland to access abortion services in England is the most tangible change that has taken place since the introduction of the Abortion Act. It’s a small step that will make a significant difference to women in Northern Ireland. But it’s not a solution.
“The case before the Supreme Court today highlights how restricted access to abortion really is in Northern Ireland. Abortion law in Northern Ireland is over 150 years old. It has led to women being silenced, stigmatised, and criminalised.
“A clear majority of the Northern Ireland population and of organisations across civil society want to see abortion law reform. It’s time for the law to catch up with public opinion. It’s time for change.
“FPA trusts women to make decisions regarding their own reproductive health and believes abortion legislation must be brought into the 21st century.”