"We must speak up for Northern Irish women"
Following Theresa May's deal with the DUP, Stella Creasy MP says we must all stand up for the Northern Irish women who still don't have access to safe, free abortion services
My Pledge, Her Choice
Posted on: Tue 27-Jun-17 16:36:21
(86 comments )
Think that abortion is accessible for all UK women? Guess again. And then please take two minutes to speak up for Northern Irish women by asking your MP to stop them being treated as second class citizens in the 21st century when it comes to their reproductive rights.
It's 50 years since the 1967 Act was passed, and legislation brought which gives women reproductive rights- except if they live in Northern Ireland. There abortion is illegal in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. Specifically, abortion is not currently permitted due to the pregnancy being the result of rape, nor in cases of fatal fetal anomaly – where the baby has no chance of surviving outside the womb.
As a result, in 2016, 724 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England for abortion care. Yet despite being UK citizens, and UK taxpayers, these women were not entitled to NHS-funded treatment, and as a result would have had to pay between £400 to upwards of £1400 for a medical procedure which is fully funded for all other UK residents. This is in addition to the cost of travel, childcare, and potentially taking unpaid time off work. Because of the expense, many women from Northern Ireland travel alone, on what is often an incredibly difficult day, without the support of their partner, mother, or friends.
Women who use the services of UK-based charity, Abortion Support Network, have been driven to drastic steps in order to afford to travel. These included selling their children’s Christmas presents, rationing food for the family, asking the man who raped them for a loan, selling their car, failing to pay the rent, going to disreputable money-lenders, and avoiding paying utility bills. Others end up falsely giving an English address, buying abortion pills illegally online, or even attempting an illegal abortion themselves.
Last year, 724 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England for abortion care. Yet despite being UK citizens and taxpayers, they weren't entitled to NHS-funded treatment
This month Jeremy Hunt, our UK Health Secretary, fought and won a court case on his right to continue to refuse to allow Northern Irish women to have an abortion on the NHS if they come to England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of "respect" for the Northern Ireland Assembly. Thus, as the dissenting Judge in the court highlighted, if a Northern Irish woman comes to London and requires an appendectomy, she is given one on the NHS free of charge; but if she needs an abortion, she has to pay. This is in stark contrast to our efforts as a country to help women in other nations access reproductive services. Our Department for International Development states: "Women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and well-being, and be able to choose whether, when and how many children to have." To that end, the UK government has spent £3m over 4 years on supporting this aim.
This campaign isn't about reproductive services in a developing nation - or the decisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It's about what is happening at your local hospital - where vulnerable women in need are being denied access to a service their taxes pay for simply because of their postcode. And however hard the Government try to blame Northern Irish politicians for this, what happens in English and Welsh hospitals is a matter for English and Welsh politicians.
To make this change now isn't to give up on securing access for Northern Irish women to abortion services in their home nation as well. Nor is it to incur substantial cost to the NHS. Indeed, the cost of providing terminations safely and legally to these women annually is estimated to be around £350,500. As this case will now go to the European Court of Human Rights, it's entirely possible that the taxpayers' money Jeremy Hunt could spend on court fees could exceed the cost of offering such a service.
The Government have now entered into a formal agreement with the DUP to keep themselves in power - a Northern Irish political party implacably opposed to the rights of Northern Irish women to access abortion services. The DUP also have form when it comes to seeking to restrict the rights of residents of other nations in the UK – including trying to stop Scotland from granting Northern Irish citizens the right to have their civil partnerships converted into marriages. Unless Jeremy Hunt changes his mind, decisions made in Belfast will continue to affect the choices open to UK citizens in Bath, Barnsley or Bangor.
The chances of overturning this decision depend upon MPs speaking up to show that we will not let equality be the casualty of Theresa May’s desperate deal to stay in Downing Street. I have tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech on this issue which MPs can vote on this week – to ask your MP to commit to action and support this campaign please click here or follow the tag #mypledgeherchoice. We can together send a message the women of Northern Ireland should not pay the price of keeping Theresa May in power.
By Stella Creasy MP
Glad you are campaigning on this. It's a disgrace.
"Respect" for a political institution does not trump womens rights.
It's a disgrace that women in NI are treated this way. Unfortunately the MP I am lumbered with is Ian Paisley so there's no point in me signing up to this I thank everyone who signs this on our behalf
Well the DUP is clear on its policy wrt to this and still maintains its majority. Its views are representative of a lot of people I've met living in NI. The change needs to come from within and sadly the views of the NI people have not, on the whole, caught up with the rest of the west. People in NI need to vote for change rather than continuing to vote for the terrorists (Sinn Fein) and the religious bigots if they want the country and the rights of its people to move forward. Unfortunately this issue isn't even their biggest issue.
Another NI woman saying thank you for this MN.
A great and much-needed campaign.
And lakehouse, the people you know aren't representative of NI. Some 3/4 of people in NI are in favour of legalising abortion in at least some circumstances and the level of support is similar across Catholic and Protestant communities, and across political party supporters (so yes, the vast majority of even DUP voters still want legalised abortion).
Lakehouse is discussing a different issue. This thread is about asking MPs in England and Wales to support NI women in having access to abortion on the NHS in England and Wales. This thread isn't about legalising abortion in NI.
maybe we crashed it with our mighty MN numbers
It's disgusting. Women deserve autonomy over there bodies no matter if they're in Ireland, Istanbul or Islington.
I cannot believe 50 years after the abortion act that this is still an issue that appears up to debate.
Sent to my mp (Northern Irish residing in England). Bloody ridiculous that in the 21st century I have more rights living here than I would if I still lived back home even though it technically the same country!
Done. I am appalled that in this day and age women are forced to resort to dangerous actions to terminate a pregnancy. It should not be tolerated or supported by the rest of the UK. It's just another horrific action justified by religion.
Thank you Stella and anyone who contacts their MP from another NI woman
Good stuff. Ian Paisley is my MP too but I'll still send this his way. I do think we're mostly guilty of being in the habit in NI of shrugging & saying 'that shower of shite will still get in so what's the point?'
However Lake house-In recent years even the most set of ways folks I know seem to vote DUP out of habit rather than a firm allegiance to their policies.
There is hope!
This month Jeremy Hunt, our UK Health Secretary, fought and won a court case on his right to continue to refuse to allow Northern Irish women to have an abortion on the NHS if they come to England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of "respect" for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
I did not know this.
Hi, I'm from the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign. We are a broad-based, grassroots group of around 1000 members and volunteers, mostly from NI and ROI, all based in or around London. We have been working with Stella Creasy and many other MPs on the issues raised in this article, and many other issues. You can find out more about us here: londonirisharc.com/about/ The women in the case mentioned in the article - the case is known as A and B - are taking their fight to the European Court of Human Rights. Their case is being crowdfunded so one way to help out immediately would be to donate to that. More details on the case, what your money would be used for and how to donate are here www.crowdjustice.com/case/abortion-rights/. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you would like more information about our campaign and the work we are doing in London to raise awareness of the appalling situation women in NI and ROI are faced with. We are always keen for new members!
Making my first mumsnet post to say thank you for raising this. I've been so tempted to join in on many NI threads recently, but this deserves to be raised for all to see.
Hi, I am the same person as user1498595471 who posted about the London Irish Abortion Rights Campaign and ways to help. I am new to Mumsnet so just getting used to it! I also wanted to say you can donate to the incredible Abortion Support Network, which gives money to women from NI and ROI who need to travel for an abortion. This is a vital service for many women, as the criminalisation of abortion in Ireland as a whole has the most devastating effect on those unable to find funds to travel and pay for a private procedure (as they must unlike women in England, Wales and Scotland). Find out more here www.asn.org.uk/
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