Change.org Petition

I ❤ 1967 have launched a petition on Change.org – to sign and show solidarity with women in NI, click HERE

Petition target: NI Assembly

What we want to change: NI needs the 1967 Abortion Act

Why is this important?

Background

The 1967 Abortion Act, which other regions of the UK rely on for guidance in relation to termination of pregnancy, was never extended or adopted in Northern Ireland. Abortion law is governed by the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 which criminalises any individual who induces their own abortion or any person who aids her – both, under the law, “shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be kept in penal servitude for life.”

The law in Northern Ireland has been widened by a number of judgements from the 1990s, allowing abortion when the mental or physical health of the individual is in ‘grave’ danger of ‘serious and permanent damage’. Abortion remains illegal when pregnancy occurs as a result of rape or in cases of foetal abnormality.

Abortion is not easily accessible through the NHS, even when an individual clearly has a legal right to one. For those who are pregnant as a result of rape, foetal abnormalities have been identified or for those who feel they simply cannot continue a pregnancy, there are limited choices – carry the pregnancy to term, travel to England for an expensive but legal abortion or to access illegal abortion pills. Over 1,000 people a year find the £800+ needed to travel to England and pay for a private abortion. We do not know how many induce their own abortions using other methods but we have every reason to believe it amounts to hundreds every year.

Facts and Figures

·       A survey carried out by FPA in Northern Ireland in 2008 found nearly two-thirds (62%) of Northern Irish people polled said that abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest.

·       A further FPA survey of gynaecologists in NI showed that 57% would support liberalising the current abortion law and more than two-thirds (76%) agree that abortion should be legal on grounds of foetal abnormality.

·       In 2009, medical sociologist Colin Francome surveyed 37 out of 42 gynaecologists working in NI and found that a majority of respondents would support liberalising the current abortion law, with only 32% saying the law should stay as it is. Asked under what conditions they would personally carry out abortions, 70% said foetal abnormality and 49% said where the woman has been raped, although 68% said it should be legal in cases of rape. There was widespread support for abortion being available on the NHS, 73% wanted free abortions for NI women forced to travel for the procedure; and 51% supported major abortion charities being licensed to carry out abortions in Northern Ireland.

·       Francome’s survey of GPs in NI found that 70% of respondents agreed that the decision whether or not to continue a pregnancy should be left to the woman in consultation with her doctor. One worrying statistic from the survey of GPs is that 11% had seen evidence of amateur abortion attempts, though hopefully such dangerous practices are no longer happening since the abortion pill became available over the internet.

·       In 2009, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, recommended that the NI Assembly “amend the abortion law to bring it in line with the 1967 Abortion Act with a view to preventing clandestine and unsafe abortions in cases of rape, incest or foetal abnormality.”

Aim of the petition

We are calling on the Northern Ireland Assembly, by International Women’s Day 2014, to hear the UN, medical professionals and, most importantly, the Northern Irish public in their plea to review the current abortion laws, extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and end the practice of forcing individuals to continue with unwanted pregnancies, travelling unsupported to access abortion services in England, and using illegal abortion pills or otherwise.

Petition Letter

Dear,

I call on you, as an elected representative, to review the current abortion laws and by International Women’s Day 2014, extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and end the practice of forcing individuals to continue with unwanted pregnancies, travelling unsupported to access abortion services in England, and accessing illegal abortion pills or otherwise.

Signed

 

News – April 2013

Savita Halappanavar

8th April
The Telegraph – Dentist denied abortion in Irish hospital was told ‘this is a Catholic country

9th April
Newsletter – Public to have say over NI abortion guidelines
Guardian – Abortion refusal death: coroner asks for midwife to be identified

10th April
Workers Solidarity Movement – Fighting for abortion rights in Northern Ireland

12th April
BBC – Abortion on Sinn Féin conference agenda
Guardian – Praveen Halappanavar: abortion inquest is tough but I feel vindicated
Slugger O’Toole – Sinn Féin and abortion – two more motions challenging the party’s current stance

17th April
UTV – Abortion ‘could have saved Savita

Blog posts on the abortion issue in NI

Harriet Long
Pro-Choice – And Not Just In ‘That’ Way

David Stewart Campbell
A call for atheist activism in Northern Ireland for women’s rights

Pro Choice NI
Archive of Blog Posts Oct 2012 – March 2013

Consider the Tea Cosy
The Abortion Rights Campaign 10 Days of Action

Mark Malone
Mass Civil Disobedience Illuminates Role Of States In Abortion Discourse

Dr. Fiona Bloomer
Abortion in Northern Ireland – Prochoice Activists Challenging the Law

The Old Jaw Jaw
Your daily abortion round-up

Gary Spedding
Deceptive Hysteria Surrounds Abortion Debate in Northern Ireland

Sarah McCarthy
UN Report Classifies Lack Of Access to Abortion as “Torture”
Why Shouldn’t There be ‘Abortion on Demand’?

Nathan Emmerich
Why a pro-life Northern Ireland depends on a pro-choice UK

News – March 2013

4th March
Journal.ie – Organisers “delighted” with turnout for Action on X rally

7th March
Belfast Telegraph – Stormont’s pregnant pause on abortion law is shameful

8th March
BBC – Sinn Fein oppose proposed amendment to NI’s abortion law
BBC – Draft NI abortion guidelines published by minister

11th March
BBC – Over 100 women sign abortion change protest letter

12th March
Belfast Telegraph - Police launch probe after 100 women admit taking or buying abortion pills
BBC - NI Assembly fails in bid to change abortion law
RTE - Stormont bid to ban terminations in private clinics fails
Belfast Daily - Green Party calls for a referendum on NI abortion issue

13th March
The Guardian – Young people deserve better education about abortion
Belfast Telegraph – Bid to ban private abortion clinics in Northern Ireland flounders in sea of recrimination

14th March
The Guardian – Live discussion: Access to abortion

15th March
Belfast Telegraph – Abortion Hitler comparison Unionist Jonathan Bell branded ‘insulting and offensive’

19th March
Newsletter – Abortion Debate: Web chat with Anna Lo

20th March
Look Magazine feature
20130320-163635.jpg

25th March
PolicyMic – UN Report Classifies Lack Of Access to Abortion as “Torture”

Change.org Petition Responses

Some of the reasons people have signed the online petition:

It’s about time!

I don’t like the idea that medieval thinking re. women persists in the UK

Northern Irish women’s right to reproductive health care has to be acknowledged by Stormont.

It is time that the Northern Ireland Assembly recognises that you can’t have maternal health without reproductive health.

And reproductive health includes contraception and family planning and access to legal, safe abortion. Women in Birmingham and Bristol have abortion rights if they need them, why not women in Ballymena and Belfast?

It’s about the right to choose. Pro-choice isn’t pro-abortion..

Women need to be in control of the consequences of criminal behaviour such as rape, domestic abuse, etc. Many religious cultures notorious for their oppression of women recognise and accept that there are circumstances which render termination appropriate. The Catholic Church recognises this fact if the life of the Mother is threatened by a dangerous pregnancy but unfortunately the law in Northern Ireland is not implemented accordingly and women die unnecessarily. It is cruel and unjust and sometimes the decisions could be classed as a continuation of abuse by forcing an unwanted/dangerous pregnancy on someone. No one ‘likes’, if you want abortion to stop, change society and remove the need for abortion not the access to abortion, improve the status of women and educate society’s attitudes towards women, We have rights and should be allowed to exercise them irrespective of other people’s religious convictions.Why is this important to you?

Give me the right to my body.

Because I am sick of society controlling & condemning women’s bodies as if we have no minds of our own. It’s my body & I’ll do what I want with it, that’s my right as both a woman & a human being. Anti-sex, anti-women oppression at its ridiculous best.

Women should be able to make their own choices. Not have them foisted on them by others.

my father was Irish; why should I have had fewer rights if he’d had children in NI rather than the UK?

Because NI already has abortions, it’s time to acknowledge this and stop exporting the problem and provide body autonomy for Irish women

All women* deserve the right to choose.

All women should have the right to a legal, safe, free abortion.

This should have happened 46 years ago

every woman deserves bodily autonomy

Women should have the right to choose, and no one should stand in their way.

I want women to be the ones making decisions about abortion – not male politicians

Because forcing people to have dangerous illegal abortions is wrong. Abortions should be legal and safe, considering the life of the woman matters more than that of a fetus.

Women have the right over their own body

Every woman deserves to have the option to have an abortion if she wants it.

My body, my choice.

Because all women deserve equal rights.

Because women deserve the rights to their own bodies!

People need as much help and choice as possible. Limiting people’s choice over religious views is selfish, narrow-minded and keeps us in the dark ages.

Because women in the UK should have the same rights and entitlements no matter where they live. And because religion has no place in legislation in this day and age.

Because I am against abortion, but I believe I cannot impose my will on others.

Every woman should have the freedom of her own body or she isn’t free at all. Banning abortion doesn’t stop abortion and allowing it isn’t condoning it. It’s a terrible thing to happen in anyones life but sometimes it is for the best. Women should be able to handle their reproductive rights in a safe, legal environment.. as if they didn’t have enough on their minds already.

Rape victims carrying a child!

In the words of many protesters before me, I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit. To have to take such a stand in 2013 and risk prosecution for making a private decision about your own health and well-being is shocking, and shameful, and rightfully damning of politicians both North and South. It’s time to face the reality of everyday life in the North and get the act extended so that women and girls can avail of their basic human rights.

No laws should ever dictate what a woman can or cannot do with her own body. Every woman deserves the right to choose.
I believe a woman should be able to decide for herself if she wants to continue with a pregnancy. Choice!

People I know should not have had to travel to England to have an abortion because of religious persecution and outdated laws. One of those people had been the victim of sexual violence and another’s life was at risk if she had continued with the pregnancy.

I remember the days of women arriving in hospital in dire states after a botched attempt to end an unwanted pregnancy.We need to see that women can access good care with all aspects of their reproductive health.

It’s the right thing to do.

It’s hard to believe that women in Northern Ireland are still treated as if they are incapable of making a decision on a difficult issue. It should be the woman who decides whether or not she wants to continue with a pregnancy. Choice!
45 years after abortion was legalised in Scotland, England and Wales, it’s time women here got the right to free, legal abortion.

It’s a basic and fundamental human right

Every woman must have the full right to choose. No one and no law should ever tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body.

Women deserve choice in medical services they receive. Denying them the right to choose, whether to follow a pregnancy or not, is a right they own.

The abortion laws in Northern Ireland are outdated and not in line with current laws in most developed countries. It should be a woman’s right to choose.

Women deserve to be able to make decisions regarding their own body

For the rights of women who are denied the freedom of choice.

The Observer: “Northern Irish women risk jail by admitting use of abortion drugs”.

On Mothers Day 2013, Alliance for Choice submitted the following letter to the Observer:

Over 100 admit to breaking NI’s abortion law.

Alliance for Choice initiated this Open Letter in order to point out the realities of abortion in Northern Ireland. We hope it will force MLAs to stop pretending that “no one here wants abortion to be easily available” and instead of rushing to close down debate by forcing through what amounts to a new, even more restrictive law, to have an informed and reasoned debate about abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

Open Letter

We, the undersigned, have either taken the abortion pill or helped women to procure the abortion pill in order to cause an abortion here in Northern Ireland.

We represent just a small fraction of those who have used, or helped others to use, this method because it is almost impossible to get an NHS abortion here, even when there is likely to be a legal entitlement to one.

We know that Stormont Ministers and the Public Prosecution Service are aware that such abortions have been taking place in the region for some years, but are unwilling to prosecute for a range of reasons, at least partly to do with not wanting an open debate around the issue of when women here should have a right to abortion.

We are publishing this letter now because of the Givan/Magennis amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which we believe is aimed at closing down the debate on abortion here, as much as it is about closing down Marie Stopes.

We want to emphasise that medical abortions happen in Northern Ireland on a daily basis but without any medical support or supervision. We were delighted when Marie Stopes came to Belfast as it meant that women who are unwell, and therefore eligible for a legal abortion, can access a doctor to supervise what we have done or helped others to do without medical help.

We live in the only part of the UK that still does not have a childcare strategy. We face huge cuts in children’s living standards if the Assembly passes the Welfare Reform Bill without major amendment. If our politicians showed as much zeal in protecting the lives of children who are already born, perhaps we would have fewer women seeking abortion because of poverty.

Signed

Christiane McGuffin, Derry
Bronagh Boyle, Belfast
Goretti Horgan, Derry
Judith Cross, Belfast
Siusaidh Laoidhigh, Belfast
Roisin Barton, Derry
Virginia Santini, Belfast
Julia Black, Derry
Natalie Biernat, Derry
Adrianne Peltz, Bangor
Elizabeth Byrne McCullough, Belfast
Naomi Connor, Belfast
Catherine Couvert, Belfast
Caitlin Ni Chonaill, Belfast
Helen McBride, Armagh
Wendy McCloskey, Derry
Alice Lyons, Bangor
Maev McDaid, Derry
Janet Shepperson, Belfast
Mary Breslin, Derry
Anita Gracey, Belfast
Grainne Boyle, Belfast
Catherine Rush, Derry
Yvette Wilders, Limavady
Deirdre Kelly, Derry
Sarah Wright, Belfast
Sharon Meenan, Derry
Shannon O’Connell, Bangor
Ciara Smyth, Belfast
Shannon Sickels, Belfast
Jason Brannigan, Belfast
Connor Kelly, Derry
Claire Hackett, Belfast
James Doherty, Derry
Jill Letson, Derry
Noella Hutton, Derry
Glen Rosborough, Derry
Ann Harley, Derry
Ryan McKinney, Belfast
Kieran Gallagher, Derry
Jeanette Hutton, Derry
Julie Rogan, Derry
Matt Collins, Belfast
Pat Byrne, Derry
Susan Power, Derry
Aisling Gallagher, Belfast
Betty Doherty, Derry
Mel Bradley, Derry
Edward Gary Hill, Belfast
Sha Gillespie, Derry
Abby Oliveira, Derry
Joanne Butler, Derry
Majella Keys, Derry,
Gerard Stewart, Belfast
Maisie Sharkey, Derry
Orlagh Ni Leid, Belfast
M. Campbell, Derry
Tiarnan O Muilleoir, Belfast
Laura McFeely, Derry
Brenda Graham, Derry
Janet Shepperson, Belfast
Donna McFeely, Derry
Daisy Mules, Derry
Malachai O’Hara Belfast
Eileen Webster, Derry
Véronique Altglas, Belfast
Dianne Kirby, Derry
Helen Quigley, Derry
Sadie Fulton, Belfast
Aaron Murray, Derry
Aoife McNamara, Co.Down
Eileen Blake, Derry
Diana King, Derry
Paula Leonard, Killea
Kitty O’Kane, Derry
Sara Greavu, Derry
Eve Campbell, Derry
Katherine Rowlandson, Derry
Justine Scoltock, Derry
Eamonn McCann, Derry
Catrin Greaves, Belfast
Anita Villa, Derry
Caolan Brown, Derry
Asha Faria-Vare, Belfast
Chrissie Kavanagh, Derry
Elaine Power, Derry
Maria Caddell, Belfast
David Stewart Campbell, Lisburn
Ellie Drake, Belfast
Lisa Byrne, Derry
Siobhan Doherty, Derry
Stella Green, Belfast
Jim Collins, Derry
Guy Hetherington, Belfast
Amos Gideon, Belfast
Stephen Connolly , Belfast
Catriona Acherson, Belfast
Timothy Lavety, Belfast
Ellen Wilson, Belfast
Richard Bailie, Belfast
Manuela Moser, Belfast

The letter contains signatures of 100 individuals from Northern Ireland who have accessed or helped women to access illegal (under Section 58 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861) abortion pills, such as those available from Women on Web (WoW).

Update

Since the letter was published, the following names have been added:

Emma Campbell, Belfast
Judith Thurley BA (Hons) RGN, Belfast
Lynda Walker, Belfast
Claire McCann, Belfast
Lily Hendron, Coleraine
Nick Ní Fhéasóg
Claire Molloy, Belfast
Alexandra Molloy, Belfast
Megan Molloy, Belfast
Peter McCormack, Belfast
Áine Jackman, Belfast
Seanín Ní Connalláin, Belfast
Ruth Wilson, Belfast
Róisín Jackman, Belfast
Laura Canning, Belfast
Niki Fisher, Belfast
Dean Blackwood, Belfast
Mandy Molloy, Belfast
Maria Guelbenzu Gonzalo, Belfast


The I ❤ 1967 campaign and WoW firmly believe that without reasonable access to safe abortion services, women voluntarily risk their health and lives obtaining clandestine abortions from unqualified persons in unhygienic conditions.

WoW provide a safe alternative but it is by no means an ideal situation. Access to legal and safe abortions in a woman’s home country is therefore required to protect pregnant their physical and mental health.