London, 25th April 2019 – The Women and Equalities Committee has today published its report on abortion law in Northern Ireland. The report identifies serious concerns that the lack of clarity about the current legal situation is creating "confusion, fear and inequality" and calls for the UK Government to set out a timetable to address the breaches of women's rights.
Commenting on the report, Richard Bentley, Managing Director at Marie Stopes UK, said:
"We welcome today’s report, which calls on the government to set out a clear timetable to respond to the human rights violations caused by Northern Ireland’s 19th-century abortion laws, regardless of devolution.
“Our teams across the country see the devastating impact that travelling to England can have on Northern Irish women. Many are forced to travel home immediately after treatment, despite the risk of miscarrying on their way home, because they cannot afford the time or cost of staying overnight. This is compounded by the fact that many women who travel are among the most vulnerable in their community; they deserve better.
“We also see the alarming impact that the restrictive criminal law has on their mental wellbeing. The inevitable stigma creates a culture of silence and shame leaving many women too scared to ask for information. While uncertainty around the legal situation, means some doctors in Northern Ireland are too afraid to refer women for care in England. For those who cannot travel, there is no option but risk life imprisonment by using abortion pills purchased online, or continuing a pregnancy against their wishes.
“It is scandalous that oppressive laws that criminalise women and girls are still in place on our shores. Access to abortion care is central to women’s human rights and equality and we urge politicians in Westminster and the UK Government to listen to the recommendations in this report and ensure Northern Irish women are finally afforded the care and compassion they deserve."