Challenging Northern Ireland’s abortion law, 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.
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