Northern Ireland steps up fight for abortion rights

"We will not be left behind any longer" Campaigners across Northern Ireland are increasing calls for the same right to safe and legal abortion that exists in the UK and Ireland. 

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Northern Ireland steps up fight for abortion rights - NewsMavens
Protest in Northern Ireland in June 2018, YouTube

Why this story matters:

In the same week that the Republic of Ireland welcomed in legal abortion up to 12 weeks for the first time in 35 years, campaigners across the border are asking for the same.

Pro-choice activists and campaigners in Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal in nearly all cases, are renewing their demands for free, safe and legal abortion that women in other areas of the UK have access to.

Following last year's "yes" vote for abortion in the Republic, women's rights activists are confident that the time has come. They believe 2019 is the year Northern Ireland's restrictive system will be reformed.

Details from the story:

  • Due to devolved powers, Northern Ireland has different abortion laws to England, Scotland and Wales, where it is more accessible.
  • Women can have an abortion in Northern Ireland only when there is a risk to the mother’s life, or to her long-term mental or physical health.
  • But campaigners have long-argued that it is concerning that women there cannot receive abortions in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormalities.
  • Following the Republic of Ireland's successful referendum on legalizing abortion up to 12 weeks' pregnancy, campaigners in the North are targeting their own abortion laws and calling for change.
  • The Republic's minister for health has already assured women in the North they would be able to access terminations there, however it is predicted to cost €450, a cost many women cannot afford.
  • Minister for Health Simon Harris said he wanted to find a way around this cost, and give women from Northern Ireland free access to the Republic's abortion services.
  • Until then, campaigners from groups like Alliance For Choice and Together For Yes are confident this will be the year Northern Ireland gets the same rights as women across the UK.
  • As Ashleigh Topley, a Northern Irish woman who had to bring her baby to term despite a fatal foetal abnormality that meant her baby would not be able to breathe, said: "It is now time for NI to catch up with our neighbours in the rest of the UK and Ireland, we will not be left behind any longer."
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