Abortion is decriminalised in Northern Ireland

Policy and advocacy   |   22 October 2019   |   3 min read

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At the stroke of midnight last night, abortion was decriminalised, and same-sex marriage legalised in Northern Ireland.

In a momentous victory for pro-choice campaigners, and healthcare professionals, women in Northern Ireland were this morning legally able to access abortion care at home for the first time. 

What this means is that while access to abortion services won’t be fully in place until March, from October 22nd:

  • Women seeking to access abortion services in Northern Ireland will no longer be prosecuted.

  • Investigations or prosecutions that were underway will not proceed.

  • Health professionals will no longer be under duty to report those who use abortion pills purchased online.

A framework for legal abortion services in Northern Ireland will be in place by 31 March 2020. Until that point, MSI UK will continue to offer compassionate care to anyone seeking to arrange abortion care in England.

MSI UK’s Clinical Director Caroline Gazet said:

“Today is a defining moment for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland and we want to congratulate all the brave, resilient abortion reform campaigners who have been pushing for this moment for so long. 

“Our doctors and nurses have witnessed first-hand the suffering and stigma this archaic law has caused, forcing thousands of women and girls to make long, difficult journeys to access abortion care in our clinics in England. We know that restricting abortion does not prevent it happening, it just exports it somewhere else.

“For those unable to travel, there has been no option but to continue an unwanted pregnancy or resort to buying abortion pills illegally online, risking some of the harshest criminal penalties in Europe, even for pregnancies resulting from cases of rape and incest, or fatal foetal abnormality.

“From tomorrow, women will no longer be treated as criminals for making decisions about their bodies and their futures. From tomorrow, the law that created mistrust between women and their healthcare providers will finally be gone.

“Women in Northern Ireland have been treated as second-class citizens for too long, but tomorrow marks the first step towards a brighter future. So, while there is still a long way to go until a new legal framework is in place and abortion is fully accessible, today we join the pro-choice majority across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland for a well-deserved celebration.”

– Ends –


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