UN: The UK is 'violating women’s rights in Northern Ireland'

The United Kingdom is breeching women’s rights in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting their access to abortion, while elsewhere in the UK, abortion law is more liberal.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, Europe
UN: The UK is 'violating women’s rights in Northern Ireland' - NewsMavens
Shamrock. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Abortion law has long been a turbulent issue in Northern Ireland, a traditionally Catholic country in the United Kingdom. But the region is breeching women’s rights in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting their access to abortion, says the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

There is a near-total ban on abortion in Northern Ireland, even in cases of rape, incest, or fetal abnormalities. A pregnancy can be terminated only if the mother’s life is at risk or if it would damage her mental health. The procedure is less restricted in other parts of the UK.

The maximum penalty for an illegal abortion in Northern Ireland is life imprisonment, while in England, Scotland and Wales, a woman can access an abortion up to 24 weeks gestation if she meets the criteria -- if she can show her health or her existing family's health would be affected negatively by carrying out the pregnancy.

Last year, the UK government made abortions in England, Scotland and Wales free to women from Northern Ireland. But the disparity in abortion law across the UK is still routinely criticized. Why should women from the same country be treated differently and be forced to travel overseas for what is often an extremely emotional procedure?

reproductive rights, women's issues

Details from the story:

  • A UN body said on Friday that the United Kingdom is breeching women’s rights in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting their access to abortion.
  • There is a near-total ban on abortion in Northern Ireland.
  • The UK government rejected the claim that women in Northern Ireland had been subject to grave violations of their rights.
  • The CEDAW report made 13 recommendations including that terminations should be permissible in cases of sexual crime, fatal fetal abnormality, and when there is a threat to a woman’s health.
  • Amnesty International backed the report and called on the government to introduce abortion reform at Westminster.
  • The traditionally Catholic Irish Republic is due to hold a historic referendum on abortion in May that could settle years of turbulent debate on the subject.
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