#PENNYPOST: People in Northern Ireland urge Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against The Persons Act 1861 and end the life time prison sentence for abortion in Northern Ireland
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Alliance for Choice have today launched #PENNYPOST - a social media campaign which encourages people in Northern Ireland to write to the Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, urging her to stand up for the women and pregnant people of Northern Ireland and stop their treatment as second class citizens.
Abortion in Northern Ireland is punishable by up to life in prison, with no exception for rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality. Those who need an abortion after being raped could face a longer prison sentence than their attacker. Between March 2018 and July 2018, 342 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England to access abortion - 28 women a week, including at least one 12 year old.
All eyes are on Westminster now - how much longer can the Government turn its back on abortion seekers in Northern Ireland? The legal basis for the effective ban on abortion is a Westminster law, Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861. This law is 150 years old and also covers the outdated offences of ‘child-stealing’ and the use of gunpowder to blow up a building. The UN has called the law and the refusal of Westminster to act, a ‘grave and systematic violation’ of human rights. The UK Supreme Court has been clear that the current law treats women as ‘vehicles’, is ‘untenable’ and is in need of ‘radical reconsideration’.
The UK Government argues that this is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly alone to address. This week, Northern Ireland broke the record for the longest time without an elected government - today is its 531st day with no assembly or executive in place. Westminster’s failure to act means that in the absence of a functioning assembly, the courts are the only option other to change the law - this raises the prospect that a victim of rape will be required to take the Government to court herself to vindicate these rights.
A recent study by the Women’s Resource and Development Agency highlights the impact of a lack of an executive on the women’s sector with one noting that: ‘Lobbying without an executive is an echo chamber. MP’s see all issues as devolved even though we have no functioning govt.’
There is cross-party support for repealing the relevant sections of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 such that medical regulation, rather than criminal legislation, can determine the conditions under which an abortion is legal.
Emma Campbell, Alliance for Choice said: ‘In less than one month’s time we will be in the Supreme Court because the Northern Irish justice system arrested a woman for helping her 15 year old daughter, who was in an abusive relationship, access abortion pills online. Alliance for Choice continues to receive calls from desperate people who can’t travel, worried that accessing abortion pills online will see them arrested. Ignoring us will not make the problem go away. We refuse to stand down on asking to be treated as human beings and not incubators. We have been let down by our representatives who either refuse to take seat in Parliament or refuse to acknowledge the public will in NI for change. We are being denied our democratic right to be properly represented on top of being denied basic control over our own bodies. Westminster has the power to make this change.
Letters are being posted to Penny Mordaunt, and can be viewed on Instagram and Twitter using #PENNYPOST.
CONTACT: Emma Campbell, Alliance for Choice 07894063965
Report by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Feb 2018: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22693&LangID=E
List of issues and questions in relation to the eighth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, July 2018: http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPPRiCAqhKb7yhsldCrOlUTvLRFDjh6%2fx1pWATd%2b5F7KFTTOnQ%2bUzl09uI93F42A7z%2bGjipiAT06ul4pomHJ2URbIuaN3X6V17lw3ohQBVBNXmZCh1vYVL7jEI
UK Supreme Court Judgement: https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2017-0131-judgment.pdf
HOW TO TAKE PART
- Please write a handwritten letter to Penny Mordaunt MP, the Minister for Women and Equalities to express your views on abortion, and to ask Westminster to stop standing by and to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861.
- Take a photo of your letter, and post it on social media using the hashtag #PENNYPOST.
[Take a photo of the letter from above, or of you holding the letter - but make sure we can see what it says. If you are not comfortable with your name being public, please do not include it in the photograph.]
- Once you have photographed the letter, please post it to:
Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt,
Minister for Women and Equalities,
Government Equalities Office,
Sanctuary Buildings, 16-20 Great Smith Street,
London SW1P 3BT
In June 2018 the UK Supreme Court issued a statement that Northern Ireland’s abortion law treated women as “vehicles”, is “untenable”, and is in need of “radical reconsideration” as it is incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR.
In February 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which told the British Government in February 2018 that abortion law in Northern Ireland breached the human rights of citizens living there.
In July 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) requested information from Westminster
SOCIAL SHARES: #PENNYPOST