The 1967 Abortion Act was passed by Westminster half a century ago. Ann Orr looks at the context of the 1967 Act, why it was never extended to Northern Ireland (NI) and outlines how abortion rights can be won in NI.
None of the main parties support a woman’s right to choose. The DUP and SDLP are entirely opposed to any reform, as are the majority of UUP MLAs. Sinn Féin and most Alliance MLAs oppose abortion rights outside the narrow circumstances of sexual crime and fatal foetal abnormality.
For the first time in Ireland, a forum where members of the public were given control has recommended abortion on request in the first trimester, when 85% of abortions occur, even for socio-economic reasons. This speaks volumes about how fundamentally societal attitudes have progressed.
Another abortion rights case is currently on its way to the European Court of Human Rights. This case aims to challenge the decision by Tory Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to deny women from Northern Ireland free access to abortions under the NHS in England.
It’s 50 years since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed in Britain, and yet, women in Northern Ireland are still denied the right to choose. Making abortions illegal hasn’t stopped women from having them. It has simply forced them to travel abroad at great cost, risk criminalisation for accessing abortion pills or put their lives at risk with other, dangerous methods of termination.