MPs call for abortion rights to extend to NI

Women in NI do not currently have the same rights as those in the rest of the UK. Credit: PA

MPs and peers are using International Women’s Day to call for legislation allowing equal access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland.

The 135-strong cross-party group has written to Amber Rudd, Minister for Women and Equalities, to urge her to ensure women from Northern Ireland have the same abortion rights as other UK citizens.

The letter has been coordinated by Labour MP Stella Creasy, who led the campaign to secure funding for women from Northern Ireland to be able to travel to England for NHS abortions.

“We have heard talk of the importance of regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK,” she said.

“But the DUP’s concerns don’t seem to extend to the basic human right of not to be forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy.

“With the Government saying they will give a free vote on extending same sex marriage to Northern Ireland, we should be clear that the fight for equality cannot be selective and that devolution cannot be used as an excuse not to act.”

Figures show that 600 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England for a free termination between July 2017 and February of this year.

The letter, which has also been supported by key service providers and campaigners, states: “Enabling women from Northern Ireland to access free abortion services in England is an important step to help women forced to travel.

“However, it is no substitute for comprehensive reform of Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law and, on International Women’s Day, we remind you that many women remain left behind.

“This includes victims of domestic violence, refugees, women without confirmed immigration status who are unable to travel, those who are too young to travel alone, and those with complex health needs.”

The cross-party group wants Amber Rudd to use the forthcoming Domestic Violence Bill, which is intending to ratify the Istanbul Convention (The Council of Europe Convention on Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence), to make provision for women in Northern Ireland.

No Northern Ireland MPs have signed the letter.

The letter to Minister for Women and Equalities Amber Rudd.
The letter to Minister for Women and Equalities Amber Rudd.