The 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, and women there still have to make the expensive and difficult journey to England to access this basic right.
newstatesman.com, 30 June, 2015 by June Eric-Udorie
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.”
Read full article: www.newstatesman.com
More than 200 abortion activists have issued an extraordinary challenge to the justice system by declaring that they have broken the criminal law on assisting an abortion in Northern Ireland.
The 215 named individuals, the overwhelming number of whom are women, said they were “inviting prosecution” about would begin to hand themselves in at police stations in response to an exceptionally rare court case which began last week in Belfast.
On Friday, a woman in her 30s went on trial at Belfast’s Magistrates’ Court on two charges of unlawfully procuring drugs used to end a pregnancy.
She cannot be named for legal reasons, in order to protect her daughter’s identity.
The court was told that the alleged offences of procuring a poison or other noxious substance knowing that ti was to be used with the intention of securing a miscarriage occurred in 2013.
The court was told by a prosecution lawyer said the case involved the alleged injured party’s mother. The judge confirmed that the defendant was being returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court.
Now a group of activists have used the case to issue a challenge which has the potential to decide whether widespread access to abortion is, at least in a de facto sense, legal in Northern Ireland.
Each of the individuals who have signed the open letter released to the media have admitted a criminal offence which in Northern Ireland carries a sentence of up to five years.
Read full article: www.newsletter.co.uk
A Belfast woman is to stand trial accused of supplying poison for her daughter to have a miscarriage.
belfasttelegraph.co.uk, 19 June 2015, by Alan Erwin
The abortion drug Mifepristone
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.
Read full article: belfasttelegraph.co.uk
Ireland, San Marino, Malta and Andorra only European countries that prohibit abortion in these circumstances
irishtimes.com, Jun 16, 2015, by Gerry Moriarty
Sarah Ewart arrives at court as a judicial review into Northern Ireland’s abortion laws begins in the High Court in Belfast. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Northern Ireland’s abortion legislation contravenes article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights which states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Belfast High Court has been told.
Nathalie Lieven QC made the comment in front of Mr Justice Mark Horner, who is hearing a case where the North’s Human Rights Commission is seeking to make abortion legal in instances of rape, incest and “serious malformation of the foetus”.
The court also heard yesterday that all countries in Europe apart from Ireland North and South, San Marino, Malta and Andorra allow abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality.
Ms Lieven, for the commission, said the issue of abortion in relation to these categories could not be left to the Northern Executive on the basis that it might act to legislate at some undefined date in the future.
The case is expected to last three or four days. Mr Justice Horner is hearing submissions from campaigners representing both sides of the abortion argument with the North’s Attorney General, John Larkin QC, also expected to make an oral submission.
Abortion is currently legal in Northern Ireland where there is a threat to the life of the woman or where there is a risk of a serious and adverse effect on her physical or mental health which is either long term or permanent.
Following a consultation, the North’s Department of Justice has recommended that abortion be permitted in Northern Ireland in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, but this proposed change does not apply to cases of rape and incest.
Read full article: www.irishtimes.com
www.interpendent.ie, 25/05/2015 by Niall O’Connor and Sarah MacDonald
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
The Labour Party is to mount a fresh bid to further liberalise the country’s divisive abortion laws on the back of the huge support secured for same-sex marriage.
After the resounding Yes vote in the marriage referendum, Labour is demanding work begins on laws to allow for terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities. To progress the issue before the end of the Coalition’s term in office, party figures will this week demand it be immediately examined by the Oireachtas Health Committee to pave the way for a new law.
But senior Fine Gael sources last night warned the party will not be rushed into further liberalising the country’s abortion laws, claiming that Labour’s push for legislation in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities is deeply flawed.
“It is not compatible with the advice of the Attorney General,” a Fine Gael Cabinet minister told the Irish Independent. But Labour figures are intent on a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution becoming part of any new Programme for Government with Fine Gael.
Read full article: www.independent.ie
belfasttelegraph.co.uk, 02 May 2015 by Victoria O’Hara
Sarah Ewart had to travel to England for an abortion
Sarah Ewart said she feels let down by the First Minister, adding that male politicians need to stop “taking control over women’s problems”.
Speaking last night Mrs Ewart said that although politicians were sympathetic to women diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities, none were sympathetic enough to “put their neck out” and change the law.
She spoke out after Mr Robinson stated that proposed draft guidelines for abortion offered a better way forward than legislation. Mrs Ewart claimed the DUP had previously offered support to change the law.
Justice Minister David Ford said Mr Robinson had done a “U-turn” on his position of having a free vote on the matter in the Assembly.
Mr Robinson has defended his stance on abortion as “completely consistent”.
Mrs Ewart, who had to travel to England in 2013 for a termination after being told her baby had a fatal foetal abnormality, said she and her family had been led to believe they were going to get support on the issue from a number of people in the DUP.
Read full article: www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk
Decision will not be appealed after court told interests of unborn had been fully considered
The three-judge High Court, comprising the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, Ms Justice Marie Baker and Ms Justice Caroline Costello found there was no genuine prospect the somatic process would lead to the birth of a live baby.
A young pregnant woman declared clinically brain dead more than three weeks ago may be taken off life support because there is no genuine prospect of her baby being born alive, a three-judge High Court has ruled.
Due to the woman’s rapidly deteriorating condition, the prospect for the unborn is “nothing but distress and death”, the court said.
After giving the court’s ruling, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said he was “grateful” to be told there will be no appeal to the Supreme Court.
The fact there will be no appeal means the woman’s family and partner may proceed with her burial.
It is understood life support in the case is likely to be withdrawn within the next 24 hours.
Conor Dignam SC, representing the interests of the unborn, said the court had found the right to life of the unborn set out in Article 40.3.3. the Constitution was engaged in this case and his side believed the court had fully considered and vindicated the interests of this particular unborn. Cormac Corrigan SC, representing the interests of the woman, said he was not appealing the ruling.
Pro-choice demonstrators in Dublin in 2012 (William Murphy, CC BY-SA 2.0)
New “exceptions” to the country’s total ban on abortion are worthless in practice.
Last week in Dublin I was part of an event, “Too Loud a Silence: Abortion and Censorship in Irish Media,” organized by an Irish activist group, the Abortion Rights Campaign, at the Teachers’ Club in Parnell Square. The room was packed with women, young and not-so-young, which is something you don’t always see at an American pro-choice event. I read from my no-longer-quite-so-new book, Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, and a splendid panel—social policy researcher Goretti Horgan, journalist Carol Hunt and activist Angela Coraccio—dissected the sorry state of reproductive rights in Ireland now, where abortion is banned except, theoretically, when the woman would die or commit suicide (we have the horrific death of Savita Halappanavar in 2013 to thank for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, which provides that extremely narrow exemption). Penalty for taking an abortion pill like those bought on the Internet by women all over the world? Up to fourteen years in prison.
opendemocracy.net, 23 March 2015 by Goretti Horgan and Emma Campbell
The latest challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion law is a very small step in the right direction, away from a post-conflict settlement in which women can be treated as secondary citizens.
Pressure is mounting on the Northern Ireland Assembly to make changes in the current abortion legislation. On the 2nd February, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) was granted the right to judicial review. They are seeking a change to allow for termination in the case of serious malformation of the foetus or sexual crimes, such as rape or incest.
Recently, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women reiterated its recommendation of this change. Yet despite repeated advice from international rights bodies and recommendations from the World Health Organization, the Assembly at Stormont steadfastly refuses to engage coherently with women’s bodily autonomy. Importantly, the Department of Health has refused to be involved, underlining the public suspicion that it is guided by religiosity, rather than concerns for public health and women’s safety.
Read full article: www.opendemocracy.net