RCM comments on abortion in Northern Ireland
In light of the result of the abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland (ROI), Northern Ireland now has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.
The RCM has long campaigned for women in Northern Ireland to be given the same rights and access to abortion healthcare services as 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 fetal abnormality or where pregnancy occurs as a result of a criminal act such as rape or incest.
RCM director for Northern Ireland Breedagh Hughes said: ‘The recent result in the abortion referendum in the ROI 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.’
She added that women in Northern Ireland still have to travel and/or take illegal abortion pills risking prosecution and that midwives 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 has worked closely with Amnesty International on this issue and welcomed recent legislative changes on this.
The RCM also wants to see equitable access to all aspects of healthcare for the women of Northern Ireland.