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Queen's Speech abortion amendment 'positive step' for women's rights in Northern Ireland

Responding to news that the Speaker of the House of Commons has accepted a cross-party amendment to the Queen’s Speech asking the UK Government to ensure access to NHS-funded abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland, Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said:

“This is a positive step towards the rights of women and girls from Northern Ireland being respected when it comes to decisions about their own bodies, and we strongly encourage MPs to support the amendment.

"While we continue to campaign for reform of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, access to free terminations within the NHS would help women and girls who currently have to travel and pay privately to access this healthcare.

"However, this is no substitute for Northern Ireland getting its own house in order and does not diminish the urgent need for the UK Government to prioritise ending the inequality Northern Irish women face on abortion. Although health and justice are devolved matters, ensuring that the human rights of all UK citizens are upheld is Westminster’s responsibility. Women from Northern Ireland have been treated as second-class citizens for too long and they should be granted access to the same healthcare services as women in the rest of the UK as a matter of urgency. 

"Theresa May and the Conservative Party must ensure the deal with the DUP does not neglect women’s rights or the urgent need for vital abortion reform in Northern Ireland.”

DUP's blocking role

The Democratic Unionist Party has previously blocked attempts to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which date back to 1861 and have been found to breach women’s rights. In recent years, the DUP has also sought to reinforce the criminalisation of women who seek abortions in the region through proposed amendments to a justice bill in 2014.

Talks to re-establish the devolved institutions at Stormont have a deadline of 4pm today.

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