Poll claims 'three quarters' support abortion law changes in NI

Around three quarters of people in NI support changes to abortion laws, according to a new poll by Amnesty International.

The survey said that 72% of people supported the right for a woman to have an abortion in cases of incest and rape, while 67% said it should be permitted in cases where a fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) is diagnosed.

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 58% thought abortion should be decriminalised so there would be no criminal penalty for woman who have terminations in Northern Ireland.

A similar proportion - 59% - thought it should be decriminalised so there would be no criminal penalty for doctors and medical staff who assist women to have abortions in Northern Ireland.

It’s been timed to coincide with the handing in of a petition with 45,000 names on it to Stormont calling for the law to change.

Adrianne Peltz, from Amnesty International in Northern Ireland, said: "These poll findings demonstrate an overwhelming demand for change to Northern Ireland's draconian abortion laws.

"This is not a small margin of support for women's access to abortion, it's a definitive landslide. Northern Ireland has changed.

"Not only do a huge majority of people in Northern Ireland want to see abortion made available to women and girls in the tragic circumstances of rape, incest or fatal foetal diagnosis, but they also want to see abortion decriminalised for all women.

"It's time for these outdated laws to be brought into the 21st Century.”

However, anti-abortion groups are opposed to relaxations in the law and have instead called for more support for pregnant women.

A 'rally for choice' was held by Amnesty earlier this year in Belfast. Credit: Presseye

The laws surrounding cases of FFA are currently being examined by Stormont ministers.

Last year, a High Court judge in Belfast ruled that the ban on terminations in instances of sexual crime or fatal foetal abnormalities were incompatible with international human rights laws.

Attorney General John Larkin and Stormont's Department of Justice appealed against that ruling. Judges are considering arguments made during the appeal hearing.

There was criticism from the Evangelical Alliance on Amnesty’s findings and their stance.

Director Peter Lynas said: "Abortion is always a sensitive issue, but particularly for those who have suffered from rape or incest or are carrying a child with a life-limiting disability.

Pro-life supporters also held a rally in Belfast earlier this year. Credit: Presseye

“However, both lives matter, and as a progressive society we must seek the outcome that is best for both, difficult as that may be.

"It is time for Amnesty to tell everyone clearly what law on abortion they are actually campaigning for - do they support any limits on choice?

"Decriminalisation would move Northern Ireland well beyond the 1967 Act (that applies in Great Britain). It is also time Amnesty explained why they only support equality for some and seem content to discriminate against those who are most disabled.

"There is widespread support for capital punishment in many countries including America, but Amnesty rightly campaigns against the death penalty.

"It cannot simply pick and choose when to use polling because it suits particular causes. Human rights exist regardless of opinion polls."