Belfast Telegraph

Abortion guidelines criticised

Pro-choice abortion campaigners have criticised draft guidelines on ending pregnancies in Northern Ireland as unsuitable.

Doctors for a Woman's Choice on Abortion said the region needed to enter the 21st century following the closure of a Health Department consultation on the limited circumstances for a lawful termination of pregnancy.

A spokesman said: "The negative tone, unprofessional language and undue emphasis on legal penalties make the draft guidelines unsuitable in their present form.

"We hope they will be improved and shortened after the comments received during this consultation."

The lobby group added that now the Republic has passed a law allowing limited access to abortion it was time for Northern Ireland to follow suit and provide the same rights as women in the rest of the UK.

The spokesman added: "In 2008 the UN body, the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) said Northern Ireland should legislate to allow women to have abortions in their own country but this has been ignored.

"Now that the Irish Republic has passed a law to allow limited access to abortion surely it is time for Northern Ireland to stop using a law passed in 1861?"

According to the Department, the consultation does not propose changing the law but builds on previous versions that have been subject to public consultation and consideration by Northern Ireland courts.

The guidance now recommends that consultant psychiatrists should be involved in the assessment of a woman's mental health when it is related to grounds for terminating a pregnancy. Other "improvements" include a section in relation to accountability and information collection in organisations.

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