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Northern Ireland

UK violates women’s rights in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting access to abortion – UN experts, UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, 2018

Press release on the report published on 23 February by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The report argues that the UK violates the rights of women in Northern Ireland by unduly restricting their access to abortion. It shows how thousands of women and girls in Northern Ireland are subjected to grave and systematic violations of rights through being compelled to either travel outside Northern Ireland to procure a legal abortion or to carry their pregnancy to term. 

See also https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/feb/23/northern-ireland-abortion-law-violates-womens-rights-says-un-committee; https://humanism.org.uk/2018/02/23/northern-ireland-abortion-law-breaches-womens-rights-says-un/ and https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/abortion-northern-ireland-un-women-human-rights-a8819306.html

Submission to Women and Equality Committee: Abortion Law in Northern Ireland Inquiry, Abortion Rights Campaign, 09/12/2018,

A submission advocating the need for the people of Northern Ireland to access free, safe and legal local abortions facilities regardless of their ability, ethnicity, income level, migration status, or geographic location.

Abortion in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Amnesty International, 2019

This link includes some of the campaigns and articles on abortion advocacy by Amnesty International. The most interesting articles have been selected to give a sense of how the campaigns developed since 2017. But users should keep accessing it to look for further material Amnesty International will upload in the future.

See a poll conducted by Amnesty International on whether Northern Ireland should change its abortion law published on 30 November 2018

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/northern-ireland-abortion-law-poll.

See also https://www.amnesty.org.uk/abortion-poll-research-majority-people-northern-ireland-want-decriminalise for a poll conducted in May 2017 on the same issue.

See the open letter to Prime minister Theresa May to change ‘cruel’ Northern Ireland abortion law published on 21 November 2018

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/kate-beckinsale-claire-foy-jodie-whittaker-and-olivia-colman-call-theresa-may-change

Link to pro-abortion campaigns led by Amnesty International, including links to the 2019 campaign #NowForNI, a campaign organised on the occasion of the celebration of the first anniversary of the repeal of the Eight Amendment in Ireland which led to the legalisation of abortion in the Irish Republic.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/safe-abortions-northern-ireland

See the petition for obtaining the legalisation of abortion in Ireland published on 16 February 2017.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/ireland-abortion-laws-repeal-eighth-amendment

Bloomer, Fiona ; O’Dowd, Kellie ; Macleod, Catriona, Breaking the silence on abortion: the role of adult community abortion education in fostering resistance to norms, Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 19, issue 7, 2017, pp. 709-722

In societies with anti-abortion norms, such as Northern Ireland, little is known about how these norms may be resisted by the adult population. The authors argue that resistance to religious and patriarchal norms can be fostered through adult community abortion education. They see this resistance as multi-faceted and bolstered by reference to lived experience. It does not necessarily involve abandoning religious beliefs.

Cafolla, Anna, The end to Northern Ireland’s abortion ban is a triumph for grassroots activism, 22/10/2019,

Gives background to the lifting of the abortion ban in Northern Ireland, and the social campaigning behind it.

See also McGuinness, Sheelagh (2019) ‘Abortion Law Reform in Northern Ireland’, University of Bristol Portal, 25 October 2019.

https://legalresearch.blogs.bris.ac.uk/2019/10/abortion-law-reform-in-northern-ireland/

Provides a very detailed explanation of the legal framework on abortion before and after 22 October 2019. Comments also on the interpretation of the law, that could be useful for future campaigning an abortion rights.

de Freytas-Tamura, Kimiko ; Cowell, Alan, After Ireland abortion vote, Northern Irish ask ‘Why not us?’, The New York Times, 28/05/2018,

Elucidates the differences between the conditions that led Ireland to a pro-abortion vote in May 2018 and the obstacles that Northern Ireland still then faced.

See also https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/06/05/616915043/ireland-voted-to-allow-abortion-but-its-still-strictly-banned-in-northern-irelan

McDonald, Henry, Abortion law ‘harsher in Northern Ireland than in Alabama, The Guardian, 15/05/2019,

Highlights the different legal consequences that women might face in Alabama, where a ban on abortion was enacted in May 2019 (likely to be challenged in the courts), and compares them to those then existing in Northern Ireland. Although Northern Ireland passed the Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 that allows abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, women could still face life sentences because the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 remained in place.

See also https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2019/05/alabama-abortion-rights-are-under-threat-northern-ireland-they-never and https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/alabama-abortion-ban-georgia-northern-ireland-dup-theresa-may-a8915141.html

Thompson, Jennifer, Abortion Law and Political Institutions: Explaining Policy Resistance, Cham: Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan , 2018, pp. 248

This book, which covers the period from the early peace process in the 1980s to 2017, is a comprehensive study of abortion politics and policy in Northern Ireland. Adopting a feminist institutionalist framework, the author illustrates the ways in which abortion has been addressed at both the national level at Westminster and the devolved level at Stormont.

Websites recommended

(New) Abortion decriminalised in Northern Ireland - https://www.amnesty.org.uk/abortion-rights-northern-ireland-timeline 2020,

Provides a brief and interactive timeline on the history of abortion in Northern Ireland.

See also https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/ and the submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women on mistreatment and violence against women during reproductive healthcare in Ireland and Northern Ireland by the Abortion Rights Campaign in May 2019.