Leading reproductive justice organisations Alliance for Choice, the Abortion Rights Campaign and London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign are calling on all respective governments to swiftly solve the crisis of women and pregnant people continuing to travel for abortion healthcare or risk prosecution for accessing pills online.
Delivering essential abortion healthcare to the people of Northern Ireland must be a priority in the current power sharing talks and all British Irish Intergovernmental Council meetings. While politicians delay, people are having their health put at risk and their human rights violated daily. Although it is promising that there is broad political support for progress on abortion access, action is needed.
A spokesperson for Alliance for Choice said “The focus on rights and the petition of concern has the potential to make a huge impact on abortion access. We cannot ignore the clear human rights breach that has been the NI abortion law for over 160 years.”
The spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign said “one of the most compelling pieces of evidence given at the Citizens’ Assembly and Joint Oireachtas Committee was the information about abortion pills being accessed. People who took abortion pills at home did not feel they could approach their doctor if they needed medical help.This situation, the fear, stigma, shame and isolation that people who have to travel or take abortion pills at home affects everyone on the island of Ireland.”
A London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson followed ‘In the absence of Stormont, the British and Irish Governments must stop ignoring the fact that people in Northern Ireland are being denied basic human rights. Twenty-eight women a week are forced to travel from Northern Ireland to England to access abortion, countless more access illegal pills online, and the mother of a 15 year-old-girl is being prosecuted for ordering pills online for her daughter. The time to act is now.’
The Common Travel Area deal means that those who fall outside the 12 week remit will still be able to travel, which is cold comfort for people who should be taken care of at home. Figures released earlier in the year showed that as many people who accessed legal abortion in Ireland travelled to the UK. Migrants and those with other difficulties in travelling will still face additional burdens and remain disproportionately affected by the law.
The Good Friday Agreement assured equal rights of people on both sides of the border but now, after the change in the law in the Republic last year, people in Northern Ireland are being left behind. We call upon respective governments to ensure free safe, legal and local abortion access is a priority as the breach of our rights continues daily.