Common sense

Vast majority in Northern Ireland favors easing abortion laws, survey finds

Pro choice supporters protest outside the Public Prosecution Office in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Nearly 80 percent of people in Northern Ireland want to see exceptions made to the country’s strict anti-abortion laws in cases of rape and incest, according to the latest Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. Some 73 percent of respondents also said that abortion should be legal in cases of fetal abnormalities that would cause a baby to be born dead or to die shortly after birth.

“Abortion is a health care and human rights issue. It is high time the law was changed with the overwhelming wishes of the public,” said Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s campaign manager in Northern Ireland. “Then women would no longer have to travel to England for an abortion and they and their medical carers would no longer be treated as potential criminals.”

As a result of Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion policies, thousands of women and girls travel to private clinics in Britain in order to obtain the procedure. On Wednesday, the U.K.’s Supreme Court ruled that a 20-year-old woman who traveled from Northern Ireland with her mother did not have the right to obtain a free abortion in English NHS hospitals. A number of women are also being prosecuted for using pro-choice charities to obtain abortion pills over the internet — including a mother who obtained abortion pills for her then underage daughter. Just last year, a 21-year-old was issued a suspended prison sentence for buying abortion pills after she was reported by her roommates.

Previous attempts to bring about abortion reform in Northern Ireland have been thwarted in part because of the fiercely anti-abortion Democratic Unionist party, the same party that British Prime Minister Theresa May is now courting in an effort to form a majority coalition government.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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