One small step…

Hooray! After an eight year campaign and a legal case by the Family Planning Association, the Health Department have at last issued a few brief guidelines about how an NI woman can obtain an abortion, though of course not in our God fearing Province. At least I think they have. The guidelines aren’t specific about the information available – we’ll have to wait for that. And Jeffrey Donaldson’s heroic ( not) resistance continues on behalf of the DUP, supported no doubt by the equally staunchly pro-life Sinn Fein. The BBC reports:

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he and his party colleagues were unhappy with some of the guidelines. “We had a number of concerns that we raised with the health minister,” he said. “Some were resolved, some remained unresolved and for that reason our ministers voted against the guidelines at the executive.”

I presume the vote was essentially a gesture and the guidelines, ordered by the Court of Appeal are operative. Audrey Simpson of the FPA welcomes the guidelines – but with basic reservations.
From the guidelines
Care pathways should be in place for all women considering a termination of pregnancy and the Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency and HSC Trusts should work together to ensure that such pathways are in place. All women should have access to written information about termination of pregnancy. Health and Social Care organisations should work together to develop regional leaflets which explain when termination of pregnancy can be provided in Northern Ireland within the current legal framework and also provide more detailed information for woman considering a termination of pregnancy.

From Audrey Simpson the Family Planning Association

I think it’s the first time the Department of Health has had to acknowledge that women in Northern Ireland are no different from women in the rest of the UK,” she said. “But,” said Audrey, “fetal abnormality still isn’t considered grounds for abortion here. Consequently, Northern Ireland women are living under a prehistoric Victorian law created at a time of workhouses and child labour. This law has devastating effects on women’s mental, physical health and wellbeing. It is at complete odds with progressive healthcare and discriminates between women in Northern Ireland and women in the rest of the UK…
(NI women) want to access abortion services and in fact they are accessing abortion services.”

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