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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Hundreds of Irish women travel to Netherlands for abortions

Almost 1,500 women travelled from Ireland to the Netherlands over a seven year-period to have abortions.
The figures, gathered from the 17 abortion clinics in the Netherlands and verified by the HSE’s Crisis Pregnancy Programme, show 1,497 women gave Irish addresses at Dutch abortion clinics between 2006 and 2013.

Figures for 2014 and this year were not available.
Irish crisis pregnancy counselling services have been offering information on Dutch and British abortion clinics since 2005.
Dutch clinics have a reputation for providing a sensitive service and being cheaper than some clinics in Britain.
However, the number of women giving Irish addresses in Dutch clinics has declined sharply in recent years.
While 461 women are recorded as travelling from Ireland to have an abortion in the Netherlands in 2006, this had fallen to 12 in 2013.
The numbers fell to 351 in 2008, to 134 in 2009 and to 31 in 2010.
Some 34,602 women and girls gave Irish addresses at abortion clinics in England and Wales over the past nine years, according to data from the UK Office of National Statistics.
The numbers registering Irish addresses there fell consistently in these years, from 5,042 in 2006 to 3,679 in 2013.
However, the numbers rose last year, when 3,735 women gave Irish addresses in Britain.
Read full article: www.irishtimes.com

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Abortion is a healthcare issue, not about politics or religion

Speaking out: Grainne Teggart, Campaign Manager for Amnesty International, says she is proud of the work her organisation is doing in Northern Ireland

Grainne Teggart, Campaign Manager for Amnesty International

Claire McNeilly talks to the Amnesty International’s Campaign Manager about attitudes to same sex-marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.

Q. Many people here believe abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or foetal abnormality; why do you think it’s been so difficult to get the law changed to bring it into line with the rest of the UK?

A. Mainly it has been political obstruction, because traditionally in Northern Ireland it had been perceived and presented as such a black and white issue. People didn’t understand that there was a spectrum there; it’s not about there being good or bad abortions, it’s not as clear cut when you have, for example, a minor where there’s familial rape and that child is pregnant. Or if a woman has a wanted pregnancy and is given a fatal foetal diagnosis.

Q. But the DUP say there’s not a lot of political support for a change. What’s your opinion on that?

A. I disagree with the DUP. There is political support there, but it’s a difficult issue. There’s a split within certain parties about the best way to address this. We’ve seen, for example, the DoJ (Department of Justice) consulted and a draft paper put to the Executive in June this year and that, so far, has been blocked.

Q. And what if that doesn’t get through the Executive?

A. Then a Bill can’t get into the Assembly. That is why we’ve had to go through the courts, because if our politicians can’t properly deal with these difficult issues then we have to take the legal route. That said, I haven’t given up hope on the Assembly, because public opinion is changing and the politicians will have to reflect that.

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New poll finds two-thirds majority in Ireland want abortion decriminalised

“45% are in favour of allowing all women access to abortion in Ireland as they choose.”
The Irish Government is under growing pressure to reform its anti-abortion law, one of the most restrictive in the world, Amnesty International said today as it published results of an opinion poll on public attitudes to abortion in Ireland.
The poll, carried out for Amnesty International by RED C Research and Marketing, shows that the majority of people in Ireland are not aware that abortion is a criminal offence. The vast majority disagree with the current criminal sanctions for women who have abortions – or doctors who provide abortions.
Asked whether the Irish Government should decriminalise abortion, 67% agreed and 25% disagreed. 81% are in favour of significantly widening the grounds for legal abortion access in Ireland.
Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland said:
“It is clear that Irish views on abortion have undergone a major transformation. People in Ireland are now, on the whole, more understanding of the situations women find themselves in and firmly believe that women should not be criminalised for having an abortion.
“Only a third of Irish people polled were aware that it is a criminal offence for a woman to access abortion here unless her life is at risk. Even with the long debate over Ireland’s 2013 abortion law, less than one in 10 were aware that a woman who has an abortion could face a 14-year prison sentence.
“This poll demonstrates that on the issue of abortion Ireland’s people are clearly way ahead of their government leaders. The conversation we urgently need in Ireland on abortion is a challenging one, but it must happen.  The Irish Government should put this issue to the people as a matter of priority. Decriminalising abortion is not only a human rights obligation – it is what people in Ireland want. And this means repealing the 8th Amendment.”.
People aged 65 or over were the least aware that abortion is a criminal offence (82%). Those aged over 55 disagreed most with the possible 14 year jail term for women. Colm O’Gorman said: “This age group tends to be the least in favour of widening access to abortion, but clearly they have even greater awareness of the brutality of this penalty.”
Read full article: www.amnesty.ie

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Belfast woman will go on trial for helping her daughter to have a medical abortion

The defendant, aged in her thirties, appeared before the city’s Magistrates’ Court today to face two charges of unlawfully procuring a medical abortion medicine known for its use in terminating pregnancies.
She cannot be named to ensure her daughter’s identity is not revealed.
The alleged offences were said to have occurred at a location in Belfast on dates in 2013.

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Student Pens Must-Read Letter to The New Government About Abortion

Last week a new poll by Amnesty International revealed that 63% of the Irish population support abortion reform.
The poll, part of which was run in the final days of the general election campaign, found that the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland want access to abortion expanded (87%) and abortion decriminalised (72%).
Despite the overwhelming support from the Irish public, Fine Gael have remained pretty much silent on the issue. Enda Kenny believes the issue is too sensitive for a referendum but are willing to set up a forum similar to the Constitutional Convention to consider the matter.
Here, student Rachel O’Neill pens an honest and heartfelt letter to the new government about the need for social reform.

Dear new Government,
The voice behind the Repeal the 8th campaign has been rising steadily over the last few years and it has been brought to the fore recently with women such as Roisin Ingle, Tara Flynn and even more recently Susan Cahill sharing their stories about their abortions. It seemed to me that the tide was turning and with parties like Labour promising to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th amendment, I thought maybe I’ll get to vote on my reproductive rights. I was wrong.
The real losers of this general election are women. The decimation of the Labour party has put abortion on the back burner yet again. How many times are we going to let this key issue be pushed back? Fine Gael promised to hold a citizens convention if they were elected but that was based on the premise that they would go back into government as the majority party. The fact that this is won’t happen now makes me worry about what happens next for the 8th amendment.
Abortion has always been an invisible issue for us. We pretend it isn’t there. We pretend not to notice the 12 women a day leaving our shores to go to England and the Netherlands to have an abortion. We pretend not to notice the clear abandonment of these women by our government and health system. We pretend not to notice that abortion is a tangible, real thing in this country. We have some the strictest laws regarding abortion in the world and yet we’re still talking about it because it’s still there. As much as politicians want us to think it’s an “invisible issue”, it isn’t.

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