Alliance for Choice wish to know when will Westminster finally act to ensure they Repeal sections 58 & 59 of the Offences against the Person’s Act with regard to the criminal penalties on abortion in order to comply with their treaty obligations under CEDAW.
Women and pregnant people needing abortion care continue to be discriminated against by a complicit Westminster government. This discrimination continues with 28 women and girls a week travelling to England to access abortion healthcare under the new funding scheme. This travel was deemed by CEDAW's inquiry, published in February, to cause undue distress and trauma and remains an 'untenable' solution to adequate and safe abortion services. Furthermore, Alliance for Choice are in direct contact with those who are still blocked from equal access to abortion healthcare by barriers such as abusive relationships, immigration status, disability needs, precarious employment and lack of childcare. These are the people who still risk prosecution if they are arrested, but more worryingly these same people risk their lives if they are too afraid of seeking medical assistance if they need it, as they are afraid of said prosecutions.
Today, CEDAW’s 2018 list of issues in relation to the eighth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, they re-iterate the urgency of the removal of criminal sanctions for abortion seekers. Regarding health they focus entirely on abortion access for Northern Ireland, they request of the State Party (Westminster);
“Following the recommendations of the Committee in its Inquiry report (CEDAW/C/OP.8/GBR/1, paras. 85 and 86) focusing on Northern Ireland and the judgment of the United Kingdom Supreme Court delivered on 7 June 2018, please provide an update on progress made to (a) repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861 so that no criminal charges can be brought against women and girls who undergo abortion or against qualified health care professionals and all others who provide and assist in the abortion; (b) adopt legislation to provide for expanded grounds to legalise abortion at least in the following cases: (i) threat to the pregnant woman’s physical or mental health without conditionality of “long-term or permanent” effects; (ii) rape and incest; and (iii) severe foetal impairment, including fatal foetal abnormality; (c) introduce, as an interim measure, a moratorium on the application of criminal laws concerning abortion, and cease all related arrests, investigations and criminal prosecutions, including of women seeking post-abortion care and healthcare professionals; and (d) adopt evidence-based protocols for healthcare professionals on providing legal abortions particularly on the grounds of physical and mental health; and ensure continuous training on these protocols."
We urge the government to act now. Human rights do not need an electoral mandate, the rights of abortion seekers deserve immediate action. Too many people’s lives and health are in danger due to the fear of criminal penalties. We need action now from Westminster in the absence of Northern Irish political representation in Stormont. We want healthcare, not airfare.
If you need an abortion and can travel please go here: https://www.bpas.org/abortion-care/considering-abortion/northern-ireland-funded-abortion-treatment/