Abortion rights campaign continues

The burning issue for abortion rights campaigners in Northern Ireland now is the removal of the scandalous refusal of the NHS in Great Britain to perform abortions on NI women free.

This petition for MPs calls for the government to use its significant powers of regulation to allow women from NI free abortion care on the NHS in Britain.

So the latest is not a new story but the latest development in an ongoing campaign, carried in the Observer.

Internet boom in DIY abortion pills Concern that women in Northern Ireland may misuse an online termination costing only £60, putting their health at risk.
These calls are increasing all the time,” said director of the Family Planning Association in Belfast Audrey Simpson “Travelling for an abortion is expensive by comparison. She said she was concerned that some women purchasing the pills, which should only be used up to the ninth week of pregnancy, had lied about the stage they were at on online questionnaires.”

Canvassed for his opinion, a leading opponent of extending legalised abortion to Northern Ireland Jeffrey Donaldson, replied with what sounds like a threat.

Would he contemplate prosecution of women under the Criminal Justice Act 1945?

Any person who, with intent to destroy the life of a child then capable of being born alive, by any wilful act causes a child to die before it has an existence independent of its mother, shall be guilty of felony, to wit, of child destruction…

If there is greater use of this pill, it is because there are organisations in Northern Ireland which are promoting the use of this medicine which needs to be looked at by the law here.

Does Jeffrey also have the FPA in mind? Surely not. They have blown the whistle on concerns about obtaining abortion pills over the internet, supported by Dawn Purvis. Her support for legalised abortion along with only Alliance’s Anna Lo in the Assembly will be decried of course. People prefer to look at the design of the label rather than the contents of the bottle. Instead, is Jeffrey about to put the finger on Women on Web?

Last month the figures for NI abortions carried out in GB recorded a rise – and as is always pointed out, the total figures may be much higher as they don’t include local women registered as living in GB.

Figures released by Health Minister Michael McGimpsey show that there were 1,343 abortions carried out in England and Wales where the woman gave a home address in Northern Ireland in 2007 — the majority of which would be regarded as illegal here. According to the Department of Health statistics, 6,400 abortions were performed on women from Northern Ireland in hospitals in England and Wales between 2003 and 2007.

Perhaps legal clarification would be useful if approached with an open mind.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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