Abortion will soon be legal in Northern Ireland after the adoption of new regulations by the United Kingdom on March 25 that allow women access to abortion on request up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. The regulations, effective March 31, also legalize access to abortion to protect women’s physical and mental health up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“This is a landmark for reproductive rights in Northern Ireland, which previously had one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe,” said Leah Hoctor, the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Regional Director for Europe. “Before these reforms, most women living in the jurisdiction faced the threat of imprisonment if they terminated a pregnancy in Northern Ireland,” Hoctor added.
This victory for reproductive rights resulted from decades of advocacy on the part of women and activists throughout Northern Ireland to reform the highly restrictive laws. They fought for decades for the right to abortion, and the Center for Reproductive Rights was proud to provide legal and technical advice in support of these efforts. The Center intervened In 2018 and 2019 as a third party before the United Kingdom Supreme Court and the Northern Ireland High Court in seminal human rights litigation challenging the jurisdiction’s abortion laws on human rights grounds.
“These important reforms mark a very significant milestone in the trajectory towards respect for women’s reproductive rights in Northern Ireland. As a result of these reforms, women in Northern Ireland will finally be able to access abortion care in their home jurisdiction,” said Hoctor. “We also urge all governments, in the face of the COVID-19 public health crisis, to ensure women’s safe and timely access to abortion care and remove barriers to care,” Hoctor added. “For these reforms to be meaningful for women in Northern Ireland during the COVID-19 pandemic, safe and timely access to abortion care must be guaranteed.”
Read more about the fight for abortion rights in Northern Ireland: