Commission Advises on Abortion Regulations
The Commission has advised the Department of Health and NI Executive to take immediate steps to ensure that women and girls have effective access to termination of pregnancy services locally. The Commission has written to both to set out the human rights requirements that need to be addressed during the implementation phase. 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 and girls 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 girls, or in cases of severe fetal 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.
The Commission welcomes these Regulations. However, given that they concern a significant matter, the steps taken to implement a fully functioning and effective reproductive healthcare service in Northern Ireland must be agreed by the NI Executive. This could lead to significant delays.
There are also concerns that due to constraints introduced to tackle COVID-19 that the interim measure of accessing terminations elsewhere in the UK is no longer a practical option, making access to terminations effectively unavailable for women and girls in Northern Ireland.
The Commission has written to the Executive and to the Minister for Health, Robin Swann, requesting details of the implementation of arrangements, including the appropriate communications to clinicians and other staff, to ensure that the issues highlighted are being effectively addressed.
For further information please contact Claire Martin on: (028) 9024 3987 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
1. The NI Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland.
06 Apr 2020