Belfast Telegraph

135 MPs and peers call for abortion legislation to be introduced in Northern Ireland

There has been a 14% rise in women from Northern Ireland travelling to England for abortions

135 MPs and peers have sent a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd calling on her to legislate for equal access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland.

Marking International Women’s Day, the cross-party group has urged the Minister for Women and Equalities 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 provide for women in Northern Ireland to have equal access to abortion services to other UK citizens.

The letter comes as it was revealed that there has been a 14% rise in women from Northern Ireland travelling to England for free NHS abortions since charges were abolished by the government in June 2017

The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has reported that 553 women from Northern Ireland have had abortions in England in the last eight months as opposed to 483 over a similar period last year.

Green Party MLA Clare Bailey has welcomed the letter and urged Home Secretary Rudd to legislate for equal access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland.

"The recent and utterly scathing report by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found the UK government responsible for grave violations of rights by compelling women to carry pregnancies to full term in cases of severe foetal impairment and sexual crimes, subjecting them to severe physical and mental anguish," the South Belfast MLA said.

“It was hugely insulting that the UK government’s response to that report was so dismissive, contending that it does not accept that women from Northern Ireland have been subject to grave and systematic violations of their human rights.

“I am deeply reassured that these 135 MPs and peers from across the party lines, however, are taking these despicable human rights breaches seriously and are refusing to permit the UK government to wash its hands of the abuse of the rights of thousands of UK citizens."

Ms Bailey said the legislation would allow the woman to access necessary medical care.

“In 2016/17, 724 women from Northern Ireland were forced to travel to access reproductive healthcare in England & Wales. Meanwhile, 1,438 women in Northern Ireland purchased abortion pills on-line from one provider in 2015," she said.

“These women desperately need the support and care of medical practitioners at home, yet they are being forced to travel and left to fend for themselves.

“I welcome the intervention of these MPs and peers who recognise that the UK government has turned its back on its own citizens for far too long and are working to rectify the human rights abuses that are going on in this country. Human rights are not a devolved issue.”

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