Our sectors

We treat all personal data in accordance with our privacy policy.
Show Site Navigation

Abortion Reform: Now for NI

Healthcare lawyer Fiona Huddleston calls for reform of the law governing abortion in Northern Ireland.

Women looking out to sea
Fiona is an associate solicitor in the clinical negligence department.  You can follow her on twitter as @FEHuddleston
Over two months have passed since the Irish referendum in which the people of Ireland voted overwhelming in favour of repealing the 8th amendment which equates the life of a woman to that of the foetus. 

This was not only a crucial step for the women of the Republic of Ireland but it also brought into sharp focus the abortion rights, or lack thereof, of women across the whole of the isle of Ireland. 

In keeping with the spirit of the TOGETHER FOR YES campaign, upon learning of the success of the referendum, there were immediate rallying cries for their sisters in the North #NowForNI. 

An Amnesty poll carried out in 2016 suggested that 72% of Northern Ireland voters would support abortion reform, however the principle barrier obstructing such reform is the DUP. 

One of the consequences of Brexit is that Northern Ireland has been back in the media spotlight, in part due to the DUP, who, as a result of the post Brexit general election, have found themselves in a unique position of power. 

The DUP and their regressive, conservative politics had, to a large extent, gone unnoticed by much of the British public before then. 

Last month Stella Creasy, obtained cross party support for a debate on Northern Irish abortion reform, which took place on 5 June 2018.

Creasy proposed a solution to interfering in devolved issues. She drew attention to The Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA), which defines abortion law in Northern Ireland. 

She referred to section 58 which makes it a crime for a woman to have an abortion, and section 59, which makes it a crime to assist in causing an abortion, and made an impassioned address, calling for these sections to be repealed.

Two days after the debate, the Supreme Court ruled that the current Northern Ireland abortion law with regards to cases of rape, incest, or fatal foetal anomaly is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

However the Government’s response was and continues to be that is a “devolved matter”.  

Teresa May’s stance did not come as a surprise, it seemed extremely unlikely that she would be willing to rock the boat with the DUP, who are, unsurprisingly, resolutely against women having abortion rights.

However Creasy has persisted in her efforts, which have resulted in the Sunday Times publishing a letter to the Government on Sunday, ahead of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference today. 

The letter was signed by 173 parliamentarians from the UK and Ireland and called for parliament to set out a legislative timetable for repealing sections 58 and 59 of OAPA and decriminalising abortion.  

In their letter the parliamentarians point out that when parties signed up to the Good Friday agreement, “they did so on the basis that Northern Ireland’s laws would be compliant with the European convention on Human Rights (ECHR).”

Whilst the political situation in Northern Ireland is fraught with complexities, and due consideration must be given to the inherent fragility of the same, the human rights of a significant number of women living in the UK should not be ignored. Enough is enough; the Government must act now for the women of Northern Ireland.    

Share this page: Print this page

Let us call you back at a convenient time

We treat all personal data in accordance with our privacy policy.

To discuss your case

    More information