Human Rights Commission publishes advice provided to Secretary of State on Termination of Pregnancy

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Human Rights Commission publishes advice provided to Secretary of State on Termination of Pregnancy

If the Stormont Assembly does not return by 21 October, the Executive Formation Act 2019 requires the Secretary of State to introduce regulations making provision in Northern Ireland for Termination of Pregnancy.

Following a request from the Secretary of State, the Commission provided statutory advice on this issue setting out the measures which ought to be taken to protect human rights.

Commenting on the advice, Chief Commissioner Les Allamby stated:

“The Commission provided comprehensive advice to the Secretary of State on abortion law reform. We welcome the fact that our advice has been mostly followed.

“The Commission had recommended that abortions should be effectively facilitated and made available to all women and girls through the GB pathway as an interim measure between October 2019 and March 2020. This can only be a temporary arrangement however in advance of a new, fully-compliant local service becoming operational.

“A requirement to travel is far from ideal and will give rise to continuing human rights violations in circumstances covered by the inquiry report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. It is difficult to see how the problems created by having to travel can be dealt with in the interim, but the severity of the risk can be reduced. For this reason, the Commission also advised the Secretary of State that, where women and girls present to their clinician and indicate that they are unable to travel, it is vital that access to abortion services be made available here in Northern Ireland.

“The Commission addressed the question of freedom of conscience in our advice. We recommended that guidance must be issued, setting out what tasks will be considered to fall under any exemption clause and those which will not. It should be clear that this will not affect any duty to participate in treatment which is necessary to save the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of a pregnant woman or girl. It is also important that there is no effect of denying or unduly impairing access on other grounds. We welcome that the guidance published by the Northern Ireland Office addresses this issue.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact:

Zara Porter, Communications & Public Affairs Officer, at:

zara.porter@nihrc.org or 02890269261.

Notes to editors

1. Access the Commission’s advice on Termination of Pregnancy here.


08 Oct 2019