RCM responds to Women and Equalities Committee report on abortion in Northern Ireland

on 25 April 2019 Abortion

Today (Thursday, 25th April 2019) the Women and Equalities Committee has published a report ‘Abortion law in Northern Ireland’.

The report says that the absence of an Executive in Northern Ireland since 2017 means that there is no devolved government to respond to significant developments, no scrutiny bodies to make sure policies are working well, no scrutiny of the use of UK Government funds for women and girls seeking abortion in England and a failure to respond to international human rights obligations.

Karen Murray, Director for Northern Ireland at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "The RCM welcomes this report and the recommendations because they recognise that the current situation in Northern Ireland is serving neither women nor health professionals well.  Women’s human rights are being denied and health professionals face serious dilemmas in balancing the law of the land and their professional responsibilities.

"Like the Committee the RCM has the utmost respect for devolution in Northern Ireland.  However the current political situation means there is no one willing or able to take action to ensure that women’s rights are safeguarded, that misery is averted or that health professionals can do their jobs properly.  We therefore support the recommendations that the time is now for the UK government to take action.

"This report makes clear that the current position in Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal except in cases where the mother’s life is in immediate danger and where health professionals can be criminalised for supporting women, does not work. It merely exports the problem with women facing a trip to mainland UK to terminate their pregnancy.  

“Women in Northern Ireland should have equal rights to access safe and appropriate care, to receive support to deal with cases of fatal fetal abnormality, and to support victims of rape and incest, bringing it in line with the UK and other EU states."

Note to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.