With the Northern Ireland Department of Health refusing to update guidance to health professionals here regarding pregnancy terminations, despite the changes to UK policy announced earlier this year, in the Guardian Goretti Horgan, a lecturer in social policy at Ulster University and a founder member of Alliance for Choice in Northern Ireland, argues for change to address the equality issue that failed to make it into anyone’s ‘red lines’. [Because that would break the bastards? – Ed] Probably… From the Guardian article
The Northern Ireland assembly has shown itself incapable of dealing with the reality of abortion in the region. Debates have tended to be high on anti-abortion rhetoric and low on practical approaches to the reality of women’s lives in the 21st century. For almost 20 years now, Westminster has looked the other way. Indeed, a letter sent at the end of June from Justine Greening, the minister for women and equalities, to MPs – setting out the government’s proposal to provide NHS abortions to women from Northern Ireland – ended with an assurance that “none of this changes the fundamental position that this is a devolved issue in Northern Ireland … This announcement does not change that position”.
Women in Northern Ireland continue to be discriminated against. Westminster cannot devolve human rights; it remains the guarantor of such rights despite devolution. The (non-)response of the Northern Ireland Department of Health to the changed situation reinforces the view that Stormont is incapable of bringing women’s rights into the modern era and ensuring full reproductive healthcare in local hospitals.
The move to give everyone access to NHS abortions in Britain is a step in the right direction, but it is only the first step. Now Westminster needs to act to end half a century of inequality for women in Northern Ireland.
And, earlier this month, Labour MP Stella Creasy, whose proposed amendment forced the issue at Westminster, was speaking at a debate in west Belfast.
Yesterday, Ms Creasy joined a panel of other abortion campaigners at the Time For Change event. The Labour MP said she got involved in the London Irish abortion rights campaign after meeting women from the group within her constituency.
Speaking in response to Dr Aaron Edwards, an academic and historian who accused the Labour MP in this newspaper [Belfast Telegraph] of engaging in “cynical political posturing”, she said: “I had been asking and trying to meet with (Secretary of State) James Brokenshire for some time about this, then the general election got in the way and then they did this deal with the DUP, and the Government said that social issues weren’t part of the deal.
“For me social issues are an absolute integral part of a better future for everyone.
“People will look at it and say this was about scoring points but the reverse is true – it’s about why we are all here, why does it matter to get re-elected, why does it matter to be championing causes.”
She went on to criticise the Department of Health here for its failure to update abortion guidelines for health professionals.
She told the discussion group she was “horrified” by the department’s response and claimed that people in Northern Ireland want to see a change in its abortion laws.
“When a community and a parliament is out of sync with one another that’s not democratic,” she added.
“What we have done in the UK Parliament is not the solution but it’s a step forward. The question is, how do we get to a solution for that disjunction between where people are now and what the politicians are offering?”