09 April 2020
Access to termination of pregnancy healthcare services is required urgently
The Human Rights Commission has advised the Department of Health and NI Executive to take immediate steps to ensure that women and girls have access to termination of pregnancy services. The call is being made as the Minister considers the implementation of the new Northern Ireland abortion law in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has restricted access to services elsewhere in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This is putting the lives of women and girls at unnecessary risk.
Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, stated:
“Time is not something that women and girls requiring access to abortion services have. The reduction of flights and other forms of transport to combat the spread of Covid-19 means that healthcare services available in other parts of the UK are no longer practically available. Women and clinicians should receive clear guidance as to how to proceed in the circumstances we find ourselves in. This has already happened in the rest of the UK.
“Lives are being put at unnecessary risk. Women who cannot yet get access to vital services here and cannot travel because of the Covid-19 travel restrictions may end up relying on dangerous alternatives. The Department of Health and NI Executive must follow the emergency provision that has been made available elsewhere in the UK, allow the services already prepared by some health and social care trusts to be introduced and issue guidance to clinicians about arrangements during the crisis period. At the same time women and girls must be guaranteed access where necessary and appropriate in a clinical setting throughout NI.”
Further information or interview requests:
For further information please contact Claire Martin on: (028) 9024 3987 or by email on 07717731873 firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
2. The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 were signed into law on 31 March 2020. The regulations allow terminations:
• under any circumstances for a pregnancy not exceeding 12 weeks;
• where the pregnancy poses an actual or reasonably foreseeable risk to the mental or physical health of the pregnant woman for a pregnancy not exceeding 24 weeks; or
• anytime during the pregnancy where there is an immediate necessity, a risk to life or grave permanent injury to physical or mental health of a pregnant women, or in cases of severe foetal impairment or fatal foetal abnormality.
Any termination performed under these regulations must take place within a clinical setting, though the Department of Health does have the ability to expand this. Any termination must also be certified and the Chief Medical Officer must be informed.
09 Apr 2020