RCM on abortion in Northern Ireland
In light of the result of the abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland, woman in Northern Ireland now endure one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) has long campaigned for women in Northern Ireland to be given the same rights and access to abortion healthcare services as is afforded to women in other parts of the UK.
All women in England, Wales and Scotland can access an abortion if their circumstances fulfil the terms of the Abortion Act 1967.
As the 1967 Act does not apply in Northern Ireland, abortion is only permissible where it can be clearly demonstrated that the woman will suffer ‘real or serious, long term or permanent damage to her physical or mental health’. Currently there is no provision in law for termination of pregnancy on the basis of foetal abnormality or where pregnancy occurs as a result of a criminal act such as rape or incest.
Commenting, Breedagh Hughes the Royal College of Midwives Director for Northern Ireland said; “ The RCM strongly believes that woman in Northern Ireland should have the same access to abortion healthcare services as women who live in other parts of the UK do.
“Furthermore, midwives practicing in Northern Ireland have been operating in a climate of fear for many years, as have many other healthcare professionals who up until quite recently felt unable to refer women to other parts of the UK for abortion services for fear of criminal prosecution. The RCM worked closely with Amnesty International on this issue and welcomed recent legislative changes on this.
“The RCM wants to see equitable access to all aspects of healthcare for the women of Northern Ireland. Unfortunately we are now in the middle of this vacuum where women in Northern Ireland still have to travel and or take illegal abortion pills risking prosecution.
“The recent result in the abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland makes changes to legislation in Northern Ireland all the more urgent and the RCM hopes this can be achieved quickly, despite the absence of a government in Northern Ireland.”