Following the result of the historic Irish referendum on abortion, I’ve received over 100 emails from constituents regarding abortion rights in Northern Ireland.
I agree that this is a highly important and urgent issue. Currently, abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal, other than in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or if there is a permanent or serious risk to the mother’s physical or mental health. I am deeply concerned by reports of women facing needless suffering while making long journeys to access abortion outside of Northern Ireland.
I am further concerned by evidence which suggests that some vulnerable women are potentially committing a criminal offence because they are unable to access legal abortions and instead buy pills online.
Moreover, laws in Northern Ireland have repeatedly been found by UN treaty monitoring bodies to be in significant violation of the various human rights treaties the UK is state party to. For example, in February 2018, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found that abortion law in Northern Ireland constituted a grave and systematic violation of rights.
The overwhelming result of the vote in the Republic of Ireland has rightly brought attention to the situation in Northern Ireland, where abortion law differs to the rest of the UK. I note that an opinion poll by Amnesty International has found that almost 60% of people in Northern Ireland support the decriminalisation of abortion.
On 7th June, there was an Urgent Question on this issue in the House of Commons, secured by my colleague, Stella Creasy MP. The full transcript of the debate can be read here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-06-07/debates/E3686F1E-85ED-43B1-9BF7-1329F3520A32/SupremeCourtRulingAbortionInNorthernIreland
I firmly believe that the Prime Minister should negotiate with the Northern Ireland Assembly to bring abortion rights in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK. I can assure that my Labour colleagues and I will maintain pressure on the Government to ensure this happens.