Northern Ireland: MPs and Peers must 'make history' and lift abortion ban this week

Westminster MPs and Peers must this week vote to deliver urgent abortion law reform in Northern Ireland, including decriminalisation, stopping women being prosecuted for accessing abortion, and introducing a suspension for current cases, Amnesty International UK said today. 

A further amendment has been tabled to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill that will deliver an end to prosecutions for abortion, and enable abortion to be regulated like any other healthcare by repealing sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act for Northern Ireland.

Last week, MPs voted by a landslide majority of 332 to 99 that the UK Government must reform Northern Ireland’s strict abortion law if the Northern Ireland Executive has not been re-established by 21 October this year.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty UK’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said:

“MPs and Peers have the chance to make history and bring an end to Northern Ireland’s traumatising abortion ban. We strongly urge them to take it.

“At a time when prosecutions are a reality in Northern Ireland, this simply cannot come quickly enough. We want to see abortion regulations in place by January 2020. Any attempts today to delay that must be resisted.

“Today’s amendment builds on last week’s successful amendment on abortion and will ensure Government delivers on Parliament’s will - which also reflects the will of the Northern Ireland public.

“Amnesty have fought through the courts alongside women who have suffered – such as Sarah Ewart and others – and have worked intensively to grow the strong cross-party support for change. These developments are testament to the bravery of women who selflessly shared their experiences of Northern Ireland’s harmful abortion regime.

“The passing of this bill would be a hugely significant step forward and a momentous win for women’s rights in Northern Ireland.”

Amnesty has been supporting Sarah Ewart, who was forced to travel for an abortion in 2013, despite her pregnancy being given a fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis and who has a case before Belfast High Court.

Sarah Ewart said:

“I am calling on MPs and Peers to do what is right and deliver this long-overdue change. We have been forced to wait for too long. The current law causes hurt and harm. I, and others like me, should not have had to share our private experiences to demonstrate how severe the current abortion law is.”

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