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Northern Ireland Decriminalisation of Abortion

Press releases  •  21 October 2019  • 2 min read

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Data published by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) showed 1,053 women from Northern Ireland travelled to access legal abortion in England in 2018, a rise of 192 on the previous year.

After MPs resoundingly backed the right to abortion in Northern Ireland in a vote in July, the procedure will be decriminalised unless a devolved executive at Stormont is restored by midnight on Monday 21st October.

What this means is that:

  • Women seeking to access abortion services in Northern Ireland will no longer be prosecuted.
  • Investigations or prosecutions that were underway will not proceed.
  • Health professionals will no longer be under duty to report those who use abortion pills purchased online.

Marie Stopes UK’s Clinical Director Caroline Gazet said:

“Today is a defining moment for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland and we want to congratulate all the brave, resilient abortion reform campaigners who have been pushing for this moment for so long.  

“Our doctors and nurses have witnessed first-hand the suffering and stigma this archaic law has caused, forcing thousands of women and girls to make long, difficult journeys to access abortion care in our clinics in England. We know that restricting abortion does not prevent it happening, it just exports it somewhere else.

“For those unable to travel, there has been no option but to continue an unwanted pregnancy or resort to buying abortion pills illegally online, risking some of the harshest criminal penalties in Europe, even for pregnancies resulting from cases of rape and incest, or fatal foetal abnormality.

“From tomorrow, women will no longer be treated as criminals for making decisions about their bodies and their futures. From tomorrow, the law that created mistrust between women and their healthcare providers will finally be gone.

“Women in Northern Ireland have been treated as second-class citizens for too long, but tomorrow marks the first step towards a brighter future. So, while there is still a long way to go until a new legal framework is in place and abortion is fully accessible, today we join the pro-choice majority across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for a well-deserved celebration.”


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