ABORTION IN NI
The 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to NI and there is no provision in Northern Ireland for abortions to be legally carried out on grounds of rape, incest and foetal abnormality. However, abortion IS legal in NI, but the circumstances are extremely restrictive as we rely on the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. As such, women found in direct contravention of that Act will be put to ‘penal servitude for life.’
Women in NI are having abortions – at least 80,000 since 1968. Unlike those countless others that resort to unlicensed medication from online sources, women with the means, have to travel to England and other European countries to access safe and legal abortion services. These women have to pay privately for a service that is available on the NHS to their counterparts elsewhere in UK – with abortion costs ranging from £600 to £2,000.
Northern Ireland continually fails to meet international human rights standards in relation to access to abortion services and the international community has been highly critical of the refusal of the UK Government to amend abortion law in Northern Ireland. Devolution means abortion is viewed as a health matter in the rest of GB but a criminal justice matter in NI.
In April 2015 after mounting public pressure due to the publicity surrounding the Sarah Ewart case (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-24458241) DoJ issued consultation on abortion law reform only in the case of fatal foetal abnormality and not on rape or sexual crime (incest). Ms Ewart; a woman from NI who was diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality and was refused an abortion in Northern Ireland, allowed a local journalist to document her story.
In June 2015 the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission issued legal proceedings in the High Court against the Department of Justice arguing that the existing law is, in the Commission’s view, a violation of human rights. It is seeking a change in the law to allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or "serious malformation" of the foetus. The judgement has been reserved until autumn 2015.
During the Department of Justice’s public consultation the law on abortion, Sinn Fein announced support for changes to the law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality (FFA). They stated it was already party policy to permit abortion in cases of rape and sexual abuse. DUP leader Peter Robinson announced that he would allow DUP MLAs a free vote on the issue of FFA but would not support changes in the case of rape or sexual abuse. This would have meant majority of support for change and, for the first time since 1861. When the Minister for Justice David Ford announced the outcome of the consultation and the overwhelming support for changes to the law in relation to FFA, the DUP Leader did a U-Turn and refused a free vote to members if the legislation came before the Assembly.
Below is the link to the Judgement from the recent Judicial Review on Abortion for FFA, Rape and Sexual Crimes;