Abortion law ‘harsher in Northern Ireland than in Alabama’

Campaigners say women can face jail sentences up to life in UK owing to Victorian legislation

Alabamas near total ban on abortion mirrors the situation in one corner of the UK: Northern Ireland.


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    But pro-choice campaigners in the region say Northern Irish anti-abortion laws are actually stricter than the legislation Republican senators have introduced in the southern US state.

    They point out that, unlike under Alabamas new law, women in Northern Ireland can face jail sentences up to life because the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 remains in place. Under this piece of Victorian legislation, anyone procuring an abortion medical staff or pregnant women can face life imprisonment.

    Mara Clarke from the London-based Abortion Support Network said that amid the international hue and cry over Alabama, people in Britain and across the world should never forget that in one part of the UK there was an even more draconian anti-abortion regime.

    Clarke said: We have had a scenario for decades upon decades in which women face the full weight of the law and years of imprisonment if they were to have an abortion in Northern Ireland. There seems to be a permanent block in the publics mind about the fact that in one part of the United Kingdom basic human reproductive rights are being denied to women. What is going on in Alabama should remind everyone here in the UK as to what is also going on in one part of this state, where women are criminalised and where women are forced to leave home to have abortions in England.

    She said women in Alabama would face the same financial and psychological problems of travelling far afield to obtain an abortion as thousands of Northern Irish women had done for many years.

    Alabamas law makes abortion a crime at any stage of pregnancy, with an exception only when the womans health is at serious risk. The legislation makes it a class A felony the highest category of serious crime in the US for a doctor to perform an abortion, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison. Women would not face criminal penalties for having a termination.

    The pro-choice campaigner and University of Ulster academic Goretti Horgan agreed that the anti-abortion regime in Northern Ireland was harsher than the Alabama law, which must now be signed by the states governor and is certain to face a challenge in the courts.

    Horgan said: Its worth remembering that a mother remains under threat of imprisonment here for getting safe abortion pills for her 15-year-old daughter.

    The [Alabama] law is not as harsh in its penalties for women who cause their own abortions, though in Alabama only doctors face up to life imprisonment. Here in Northern Ireland, women who cause their own abortion continue to face up to life in prison if convicted.

    The UKs Abortion Act 1967, which now allows for lawful abortions across Great Britain up to 24 weeks into pregnancy and beyond that in certain circumstances, was never applied in Northern Ireland.

    An alliance of fundamentalist Protestant Christians supported by their political allies in the Democratic Unionist party continue, alongside the Catholic Church, to block any moves towards reforming the strict anti-abortion laws in the region.

    Attempts made in the Northern Ireland assembly have been blocked by the DUP. In the absence of devolution, after power-sharing collapsed in 2017, Theresa Mays government, which relies on DUP support at Westminster to remain in power, has resisted moves in the Commons to impose abortion reform on the region.

    In a letter to the women and girls of Alabama, a pro-choice organisation in Northern Ireland warned them to be vigilant for informers who may report them for taking abortion pills.

    In it, the Alliance for Choice said: You might need to forge strong relationships with online abortion pill providers, who are the only safe way to provide for women who fall through the cracks and cannot travel; those in coercive control relationships, with disabilities, with precarious jobs that dont approve sudden days off, unsure immigration status and lack of access to finance, the list goes on.

    But in a reminder that at least one woman faces prosecution in Northern Ireland for procuring abortion pills on the internet for her then 14-year-old daughter who became pregnant through rape, the Alliance for Choice said: You will have to become the people, instead of clinicians, that offer advice and help to women and pregnant people who need abortions; you will have to find ways of sharing the information that helps the most people without getting yourselves into trouble.

    Finally, you and the people you help might actually get arrested, you might have your homes searched and your workplaces raided. Maybe a GP will inform the police of your illegal behaviour, or a flatmate either way, you really have to know who you can trust with the information about your medical procedure, if you access pills at home because you cannot travel.

    Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

     


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