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Abortion on request allowed up to 12 weeks in Northern Ireland under laws due to apply from end of month

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(Niall Carson/PA)

(Niall Carson/PA)

(Niall Carson/PA)

Abortions can take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy without condition under new laws soon to come into force in Northern Ireland.

Regulations for abortion services in the region have been laid by the UK Government.

The move comes following a landmark law change last October following a private member's bill at Westminster which decriminalised abortion here.

DUP MP Carla Lockhart described the decision by the Government to lay the regulations yesterday as "contemptible", claiming it "ignores the devolution settlement and the overwhelming viewpoint of the Northern Ireland people".

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Carla Lockhart

Carla Lockhart

Carla Lockhart

From March 31, the regulations will allow abortion on request for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; abortion up to 24 weeks on grounds that continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or girl. Abortion will also be available in cases of severe and fatal foetal anomalies, with no gestational limit.

Amnesty International has welcomed the regulations, but warned that they will fail to keep women safe during the current health emergency.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International's NI campaign manager, expressed concern that the guidelines do not permit women to take both abortion pills at home, during a time when Government advice has been against travel in measures to stop the spread of Covid-19.

"The Government's decision not to allow women to self-manage abortions at home during the current health crisis is dangerous and puts women at risk," she said.

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Grainne Teggart

Grainne Teggart

Grainne Teggart

However, anti-abortion campaigners have slammed the regulations as the "wrong course for Northern Ireland".

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr William Henry, said the NIO's new legal framework "goes too far".

"Today is a deeply sad and worrying moment, as I am sure many will be struck by the contradiction, that at a time we are all taking such drastic measures to preserve life, legislation is introduced to take it," he said.

Care NI chief executive, Nola Leach, said it was a "deeply sad day" for Northern Ireland, adding there will be "considerable anger" at the framework.

"The fact the Northern Ireland Office is proposing a more liberalised law on abortion than the one currently in place in Great Britain adds insult to injury," she said. "Westminster should never have acted to override the devolved Assembly on this issue."

Belfast Telegraph