Today Stella Creasy questioned Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Women, on the access to abortion healthcare for women in Northern Ireland. Stella Creasy wondered, given home use has been approved for those in England, Scotland and Wales, and bearing in mind there are currently 28 people a week travelling to access abortion care in England and countless others self-administering abortion pills illegally, isn't it time for the UK Government to act?
In response the Minister made a feeble call to the NI assembly to reform to bring these long awaited human rights to Northern Ireland, this, only a number of days after the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, acknowledged the failure of the assembly by docking MPs salary and bestowing greater powers on the unelected and unaccountable Civil Service.
The 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act is a piece of Victorian legislation written and enacted in the full throes of British Colonialism. To shirk responsibility for righting this continued wrong against women and pregnant people in Northern Ireland is breath-taking. Westminster had the power to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland until 2008, then, as now, our bodies have been a bargaining tool for the DUP. Their hold over swing votes in the house has meant we have remained outside of the Union in terms of human rights.
Although the DUP are not the only party who have wilfully obstructed the access of abortion healthcare to their own citizens in Northern Ireland, the DUP are the ones currently in a bargaining position with the UK government. So, in the face of calls from the UN in the form of a rare CEDAW inquiry, in the face of the judgements from the highest court in the land, in denial of the wishes of the people of the country and of their own voters, the DUP continue the inhumane and degrading treatment of abortion seekers in Northern Ireland.
The Conservative Government are either in denial or wilfully contrary if they believe that the Assembly, once up and running again in Stormont will grant these rights to us.
We know that the petition of concern has been used as a mechanism by DUP to deny rights to LGBT+ people, despite a democratic and representative majority voting otherwise in the Assembly to allow same-sex marriages.
Co-Chair Emma Campbell said,
“There really is only one solution to this problem and it’s the same solution that was sought for Civil Partnerships in 2004, that is for Westminster to intervene: Remove outdated colonial legislation to ensure the recommendations of both the Supreme Court and the UN CEDAW Inquiry are honoured. Repeal Sections 58 & 59 of the Offences against the Persons Act to remove all criminal penalties from those seeking abortion healthcare immediately.
2004 - the Civil Partnership Act was introduced under a period of direct rule. This Act remains in place and has not been subject to any challenge by any political party.
2016 - CEDAW Committee conducted inquiry into Northern Ireland’s abortion law.
2018 - CEDAW Committee report stated current law in Northern Ireland results in grave and systematic violation of human rights under CEDAW. Recommendations were in two areas to remedy the violation:
2018 - UK Supreme Court stated that the current framework regulating abortion in Northern Ireland is in violation of national and international human rights commitments
Change of Legal Framework: Repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and create new legislation with expanded grounds for access to abortion. Interim cease on application of criminal law should be put in place.
Improvement to local sexual and reproductive health rights and services: This should include access to contraception and high quality abortion/post-abortion care; rights-based counselling and information on sexual and reproductive health and services; reform of sex education; awareness-raising campaigns on reproductive and sexual health; combatting of gender stereotypes; protection of clinic staff and service users from harassment by anti-abortion protestors.
If you need an abortion:
· Women Help Women - https://consult.womenhelp.org/en/get-abortion-pills
· Women on Web - https://www.womenonweb.org/en/i-need-an-abortion
· Family Planning NI - 0345 122 8687 - https://www.fpa.org.uk/unplanned-pregnancy-and-abortion/unplanned-pregnancy-post-abortion-counselling-northern-ireland
· Contact US - 07894063965 - firstname.lastname@example.org