Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Extend Abortion Act to Northern Ireland now

Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life
Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life

This week in the Belfast Telegraph we were able to read an interview with Bernie Smyth from Precious Life about Jim Wells's proposed amendment to the Justice Bill, which would effectively close Marie Stopes in Belfast (DebateNI, August 25).

We learned of her view on institutionalising women with mental health problems and the spurious denial that Precious Life are harassing women visiting Marie Stopes.

Mr Wells's proposed clauses, as currently drafted, disregard the law, international human rights standards and World Health Organisation recommendations.

Apart from these oversights, there is also a clear lack of empathy or research-based thinking behind these new proposals.

Nearly 1,000 women travelled to Britain last year in order to access a termination. This number does not include women who travel to other European countries, or access abortion pills from Women on Web and other online sources.

Jim Wells, Bernie Smyth and their pro-life associates continue to maintain that there is no appetite for abortion in Northern Ireland.

What about the tens of thousands of women here who have had abortions, but were forced to leave the country (or break the law) and their supporters?

The case in the Republic of the young, raped, migrant woman who was denied access and force-fed until she could be given a Caesarean at 24 weeks was clearly barbaric.

Yet this is the precisely the kind of thing that could happen due to the ambiguity and confusion around Northern Ireland's abortion law.

Alliance for Choice has been campaigning for an extension of the UK's 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, which would ensure NHS free, safe and legal abortion to women in the province.

These amendments of Jim Wells and the campaigns of Precious Life help drive desperate women with money to leave Northern Ireland and poor women, or those unable to travel, to self-administer abortion pills in their own homes.

  • Emma Campbell is vice-chair of Alliance for Choice Belfast

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