Amnesty launches new campaign on abortion in Northern Ireland

New poll finds 7 in 10 Northern Ireland people back abortion law reform

Seven out of ten people back changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland. That is the clear result from new independent opinion polling published today.

The poll findings coincide with the launch of a new campaign by Amnesty International to change laws; policy and practice on access to abortion in Northern Ireland and bring it into line with international human rights standards.

The research, commissioned by Amnesty International, carried out last month by market research company Millward Brown Ulster, shows that

  • 69% of people think the law in Northern Ireland should make access to abortion available where the pregnancy is the result of rape
  • 68% of people think the law in Northern Ireland should make access to abortion available where the pregnancy is the result of incest
  • 60% of people think the law in Northern Ireland should make access to abortion available where the foetus has a fatal abnormality.

Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland Campaigner at Amnesty International, said:

'It is shocking that in 2014 it is still not possible for a woman in Northern Ireland to have an abortion where the pregnancy is a result of her being raped or where there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

'Women, finding themselves in the most distressing of circumstances, should not also face the threat of imprisonment for making deeply personal choices about their pregnancies.

'Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are not only out of line with international human rights standards, they are also utterly out of line with public opinion here.

'A clear majority of people in Northern Ireland, men and women, of all ages, all political leanings and of all religious persuasions and none, want to see the law changed. Ministers and legislators from all parties should listen to their voters.'

Amnesty’s campaign and poll come as the Department of Justice reviews laws on access to abortion in Northern Ireland, where the procedure is largely governed by the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act. This makes it a criminal offence for a woman to have an unlawful abortion, or for any other person to carry out an unlawful abortion. Abortions are only permitted in certain circumstances, including when the life of the mother is in grave danger.

The Northern Ireland Department of Justice is currently consulting on reforming the law to provide access to abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, rape and other criminal sexual activity. The public consultation on abortion legislation will close next January.

Amnesty will launch its ‘My Body My Rights’ campaign to change laws, policy and practice on access to abortion in Northern Ireland at an event in Belfast today.

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