Abortion rights in Northern Ireland

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland
25 February 2018

Members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women visited Belfast between 10 and 19 September 2016 to investigate the question of abortion rights in Northern Ireland. During this time they met a wide range of politicians, women, medical professionals, and women’s organisations.
     The Communist Party of Ireland welcomes the critical analysis made in the report of inquiry, published last week, and the recommendations made in the report.
     A CPI spokesperson, Lynda Walker, stated: “The report is a damning indictment of the situation in Northern Ireland. It rightly condemns the lack of sex education in schools and intimidation of both women and health professionals who are under a duty to give information within a reasonable time to the police. Failure to do so without a reasonable excuse is an offence, which, upon conviction, carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment.
     “The report points out that restrictions affect ‘only women from exercising reproductive choice, result in women being forced to carry pregnancy to full term, and involve mental or physical suffering constituting violence against women and potentially amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.’
     “Thousands of women and girls in Northern Ireland are subjected to grave and systematic violations of rights through being compelled to travel outside Northern Ireland to procure a legal abortion, to carry their pregnancy to term, or to procure an illegal abortion. Between 1970 and 2015 a total of 61,314 abortions in England were performed on Northern Ireland residents. The report states that ‘Westminster and NI authorities acknowledge the magnitude of the phenomenon and choose to export it to England where NI women travel to access abortions.’”
     In view of the failure of successive British governments and the NI Assembly to introduce legislation, the CPI now calls for the provision for women to access high-quality abortion and post-abortion care in all public health facilities, and adopt guidance on doctor-patient confidentiality in this area. We further call for the 1967 Abortion Act (or an improved alternative) to be extended to the North of Ireland.
     “We congratulate the women’s and other organisations that helped to facilitate this report.”

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