Politics

How long can Northern Ireland’s draconian abortion laws survive?

In Belfast, a mother is being prosecuted for giving her daughter abortion pills to induce a miscarriage, pills which are illegal under abortion laws in Northern Ireland. As a result, over 200 women in Northern Ireland have signed an open letter from the campaign group Alliance for Choice to the Public Prosecution Service asking them to “arrest” them for using or providing illegal abortion pills. Over 200 women who are fed up with their bodily autonomy being toyed with, controlled and owned by male dominated governments.
As a recent Amnesty report put it, the laws in Northern Ireland are “draconian” and women there are being treated like “child-bearing vessels”. Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird lives in Northern Ireland and signed the Alliance for Choice petition. When I spoke to her, she said: “Whether you want to call us vessels or incubators, that’s how we’re seen in the eyes of the state. The problem is that it’s such a controversial topic that the state don’t want to touch. Everyone knows the pills are coming in. It’s all over the internet. There are Facebook pages regularly sharing information telling women if they need an abortion, where they can get it and if they’re past the mark to go to the Abortion Support Network if they can’t afford to travel.” Access to abortion as Emma Campbell, the Vice-chair of Alliance of Choice said, is very much to do with class: “You can get an abortion if you have money, a credit card and the ability to travel. If not, you don’t really have a choice because abortions are only allowed in limited circumstances.”

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Politics

Case seeks to legalise abortion in cases of rape, incest and “serious malformation”

Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation contravenes article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights which states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Belfast High Court has been told.
Nathalie Lieven QC made the comment in front of Mr Justice Mark Horner, who is hearing a case where the North’s Human Rights Commission is seeking to make abortion legal in instances of rape, incest and “serious malformation of the foetus”.
The court also heard yesterday that all countries in Europe apart from Ireland North and South, San Marino, Malta and Andorra allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.
Ms Lieven, for the commission, said the issue of abortion in relation to these categories could not be left to the Northern Executive on the basis that it might act to legislate at some undefined date in the future.
The case is expected to last three or four days. Mr Justice Horner is hearing submissions from campaigners representing both sides of the abortion argument with the North’s Attorney General, John Larkin QC, also expected to make an oral submission.
Abortion is currently legal in Northern Ireland where there is a threat to the life of the woman or where there is a risk of a serious and adverse effect on her physical or mental health which is either long term or permanent.
Following a consultation, the North’s Department of Justice has recommended that abortion be permitted in Northern Ireland in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, but this proposed change does not apply to cases of rape and incest.

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