UK abortion inquiry ends with impassioned testimonials 

"The people of Northern Ireland need and deserve healthcare at home. They have waited long enough."

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
UK abortion inquiry ends with impassioned testimonials  - NewsMavens
Woman, PixaBay

Why this story matters:

All women in the UK have access to abortion healthcare, right? Wrong.

Despite the 1967 Abortion Act permitting abortion in some cases across the UK, it did not extend to Northern Ireland.

There, a woman can only access the procedure if there is a risk of serious, long-term damage to her mental or physical health by carrying out the pregnancy.

Only 13 women had terminations of pregnancy in hospitals in Northern Ireland in 2016/17. Meanwhile, more than 900 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England for the procedure in 2017. 

Major human rights organizations and abortion rights groups argue the law violates people's rights to access safe and legal abortions.

They, along with people in Northern Ireland who have been affected by the law, have been submitting their stories to an inquiry into the law.

Seven months after the Republic of Ireland voted to legalize abortion there, it's a crucial moment for abortion rights in Europe.

Details from the story:

  • An inquiry launched by the Women and Equalities Committee in Westminster into abortion policy in Northern Ireland ended on December 10.
  • While the procedure is available in many cases in the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has different abortion regulations.
  • In Northern Ireland, abortion is only legal in circumstances where the woman’s life is in danger or if carrying the pregnancy to term poses a serious, permanent or long-term risk to her physical and mental health and wellbeing.
  • Devolution means individual countries in the UK have different policies in areas of healthcare.
  • A referendum on abortion law in the Republic of Ireland has reignited concerns that UK policy is incompatible with women's and human rights.
  • In 2016, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women said Northern Ireland was violating women's rights with its restrictions on access to abortion.
  • In February 2018, a new UN report said the UK was violating the rights of women and pregnant people in Northern Ireland by restricting their right to access safe and legal abortion.
  • A report commissioned by the former Health and Justice Ministers in Northern Ireland published in April 2018 recommended that the law be changed to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.
  • While women from Northern Ireland are legally able to travel to other parts of the UK to have the procedure, campaigners argue they should be allowed to have an abortion in their home region.
  • In a submission to the inquiry, the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), a UK-wide grassroots movement for abortion rights, said: "The ability to access free, safe, legal and local abortion is a fundamental human right which all people are entitled to, regardless of their ability, ethnicity, income level, migration status, or geographic location. We, along with international human rights bodies and the Northern Irish public, implore Westminster to decriminalize abortion across the UK and to legislate for the provision of on-request services within Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland need and deserve healthcare at home. They have waited long enough."
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