Alliance for Choice have noted that the Department of Health released figures on the Northern Ireland termination of pregnancy statistics this week for 2016/17 and confirmed that 13 terminations were carried out under Northern Ireland’s strict guidelines.
Co-Chair Emma Campbell commented; “We are concerned that women and pregnant people who qualify for treatment here are still being forced to travel. This is due to the lack of access to appropriate NHS services in Northern Ireland, coupled with the unwillingness of the Department of Health to provide clear and concise pathways to abortion care.
The numbers of abortion seekers needing to access treatment have remained close to the 1,000 a year mark but how they are accessing reproductive healthcare has changed with 1,438 women and pregnant people in NI purchasing abortion pills on-line from just one provider (Women on Web) in 2015.
Commenting, Clare Bailey Green Party MLA said “It is shocking that in 2016/17 only 13 women were deemed ‘suitable’ to access reproductive healthcare at home, while 724 women from Northern Ireland were forced to travel to access reproductive healthcare in England & Wales.
There have been repeated requests to the Department of Health to urgently revise their guidance to medical practitioners to ensure that doctors no longer fear threat of prosecution, which was clarified by the Public Prosecution Service, and also to provide clear care pathways for women who can now access free abortions in the rest of the UK. There is to date no promised ‘substantive reply’ from the Department.
Of course these are only interim measures until access to free, safe and legal abortion for all those who require it can be legislated for in Northern Ireland and this cannot be considered a devolved issue due to the breaches in human rights that occur daily due to the inaction of our leaders.