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Take Action! Select Committee wants experiences of women on abortion in Northern Ireland

Have your say on abortion reform in Northern Ireland! The deadline for submissions is Monday 10 December 2018.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee is calling for the testimonies of people who have been affected by the restrictive abortion law in Northern Ireland as part of an ongoing inquiry into how the law could be reformed. This includes the general public, women, and medical and legal professionals in Northern Ireland.

Humanists UK, which has submitted its own written evidence to the committee in favour of removing abortion from the criminal code in Northern Ireland, has prepared some guiding notes to help people prepare their responses.

The inquiry is calling for written submissions looking into the following areas:

  • What are the views of the general public, women, and medical and legal professionals in Northern Ireland about the law on abortion and whether it should be reformed? How have those views changed over time?
  • What are the experiences of women in Northern Ireland who have been affected by the law on abortion?
  • What are the responsibilities of the UK Government under its international obligations for taking action to reform abortion law in Northern Ireland? How should these be reconciled to the UK’s devolution settlement?

Abortion law in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe and the criminal sanctions imposed are amongst the harshest in the world, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment. It is only legal in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. A Supreme Court judgment earlier this year said that for human rights reasons, abortion must become legal in the cases of rape or incest, or where there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

Current restrictions force women to either travel to the UK to receive treatment, risk prosecution for procuring illegal online abortion pills, or continue their pregnancies against their wishes and in violation of their rights. There is no exception made for pregnancies that arise as a result of sexual crime or where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordination Boyd Sleator commented, ‘The Women and Equalities Select Committee is a cross-party group of MPs who have the power to hold inquiries into areas of Government policy and legislation that fall under its remit. They can make recommendations and hold Government to account for failings. This inquiry is an opportunity for women and professionals who have been negatively affected by the abortion law in Northern Ireland to put their case for reform directly to Westminster.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan at rachel@humanism.org.uk or on 07951 176 245 or Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator on boyd.sleator@nihumanists.org or on 07918 975 795.

Read more about the inquiry: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/abortion-northern-ireland-17-19/

Read our guiding notes to help your draft your submission: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-11-13-RTR-Guiding-notes.pdf

The Committee will publish Humanists UK’s own submission in due course.

Submit your written evidence to the inquiry: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/women-and-equalities-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/abortion-northern-ireland-17-19/commons-written-submission-form/

For more information about Humanists UK’s campaigning work on abortion, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

Humanists UK recently intervened in a Northern ireland abortion case. Read more at https://humanism.org.uk/2018/09/18/humanists-uk-to-intervene-in-northern-ireland-abortion-case/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.

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