Belfast Telegraph

Extend abortion pill rights to Northern Irish women, Labour urges Government

Tony Lloyd said action should be taken by Westminster in the absence of a Stormont assembly, after moves to allow English women to take pills at home

Northern Ireland’s “draconian” abortion laws must be changed to allow women there to access termination drugs in the same way as those in the rest of the UK, Labour has said.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd called on the Government to take action after it was announced the rules in England will be changed to allow women to take the second abortion pill at home.

The move will see the country follow Scotland and Wales in offering women the chance to take the pill in the safe and familiar surroundings of their own home.

Calls for Northern Ireland’s abortion laws to be reformed intensified after a referendum in the Republic of Ireland earlier this year resoundingly backed liberalising legislation south of the border.

The Government must take action and bring Northern Ireland’s draconian laws in line with those in the rest of the UK

But Northern Ireland has been without an assembly since last year and the UK Government has so far insisted that change must come from Stormont.

Mr Lloyd said the announcement in England highlighted the “shocking reality that women in Northern Ireland do not have the same access to the healthcare they need as in the rest of the UK”.

He added: “Access to safe and legal terminations in Northern Ireland is strictly limited resulting in women travelling to Great Britain for terminations or taking unregulated pills bought online.

“Women in Northern Ireland who take these pills are putting their lives at risk.

“The UK Government must take action and bring Northern Ireland’s draconian laws in line with those in the rest of the UK to ensure women do not have to endure further suffering and that those in need receive the care they require.”

Under the current system, women in England are required to take both pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, 24-48 hours apart in a clinic to end an early pregnancy before 10 weeks’ gestation.

The Government said it will legalise home-use by the end of the year in a move welcomed by campaigners, who say the current system can cause unnecessary stress and trauma.

Women leave the clinic after taking the second pill and pass the pregnancy at home, with the two visits sometimes challenging to organise and often uncomfortable or traumatic – and some women even beginning to miscarry before they reach home.

In July, more than 170 politicians from across the spectrum in the UK and Ireland called on the British Government to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

The group, including Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem MPs and peers, Stormont Assembly members and Irish TDs and senators, said it was a matter of protecting women’s human rights and honouring the Good Friday Agreement.

According to the group, nearly 1,000 women and girls were forced to travel to Britain for safe terminations in 2017, while others had to take illegal abortion drugs at home.

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