Belfast Telegraph

Sex assault victim, 12, forced to travel to England for abortion, MPs told

The ex-director of the Marie Stopes centre in Belfast said she saw many rape victims she could not help due to Northern Ireland’s strict laws.

Dawn Purvis gave evidence to MPs on the Commons Women and Equalities Committee sitting in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)
Dawn Purvis gave evidence to MPs on the Commons Women and Equalities Committee sitting in Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

A 12-year-old victim of sexual assault in Northern Ireland had to travel to England under police escort for an abortion, MPs have been told.

An officer seized samples from the procedure as evidence, said Dawn Purvis, the former director of the Marie Stopes pregnancy advice service in Belfast.

The child could not be treated in Northern Ireland due to strict laws prohibiting the procedure in most circumstances.

That is inhumane treatment of a young child. Dawn Purvis

Ms Purvis said: “The police had to go with her, they attended the surgical procedure to seize the evidence.

“That is inhumane treatment of a young child who did not have a passport and had to leave the country.”

Abortion is a bitterly polarising debate in Northern Ireland.

While at Marie Stopes, Ms Purvis said she was subjected to at times vitriolic verbal abuse from those who believe the life of the unborn is sacrosanct.

For years, significant numbers of women from Northern Ireland have travelled to Great Britain for terminations.

Ms Purvis appeared before the Commons Women and Equalities Committee on Friday during its hearing in Belfast on Northern Ireland’s abortion law.

She told MPs: “We saw many young women we could not help, from the Roma or Travelling community, victims of domestic violence.

“One woman came in with a boot mark on her face where she was constantly battered and raped by her abusive partner over Christmas, and she could not leave Northern Ireland and the law here does not help women.”

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