Amnesty International has welcomed reports that a group set up by the Northern Ireland Executive to examine cases of fatal foetal abnormality has recommended changes to the region’s abortion law.
However, the human rights organisation warned that international legal standards required Northern Ireland law reform to go much further by decriminalising abortion and by making terminations available to women and girls, at a minimum, where there is a risk to health and in cases of severe and fatal foetal abnormalities, or where the pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest.
Adrianne Peltz, Northern Ireland Campaigner, Amnesty International said
“We welcome news that this official report to the Executive is recommending legislative change to allow for abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormality. Frankly, it would have been shocking if it had concluded otherwise.
“While the reported conclusions are welcome, as are the supportive comments by the deputy First Minister, we need legislators of all parties to recognise that Northern Ireland law requires more fundamental change if it is to meet internationally-recognised human rights standards.
“United Nations expert bodies have repeatedly called for Northern Ireland law to be changed, at a minimum, to decriminalise abortion and to provide for terminations where there is a diagnosis of fatal or severe foetal abnormality, where a pregnancy is a result of a sexual crime, or where there is a risk to women’s health.
“It is encouraging to see that Ministers have noted the findings of Amnesty’s recent opinion poll that clearly showed the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland want abortion law reform, with 72% in favour of a change to the law and only 15% opposed.
“The current abortion law in Northern Ireland is not only bad, but cruel and inhumane for the women and girls who find themselves denied an abortion.
“Those who can afford it, travel to England for the treatment they need - 833 women and girls that we know of made that journey from Northern Ireland last year. Those who can’t afford it, increasingly take medication obtained online, without medical supervision and with the real risk of criminal prosecution. This is a horrifying Catch-22 situation that women and girls in Northern Ireland face.
“Instead of overseeing the prosecution of women and girls for seeking healthcare, Northern Ireland Executive Ministers should bring our abortion laws into line with international human rights standards.”