United Nations committee: Abortion laws in North violate women's rights

Northern Ireland abortion laws violate women's rights U.N. body says

The United Nations has accused the UK of violating women's human rights by restricting access to abortions in Northern Ireland. "And it puts women in horrific situations", Halperin-Kaddari said.

Northern Irish women who have been raped, are victims of incest or have fatal foetal abnormalities are not allowed abortions.

In its report, the Committee concludes that a restriction affecting only women from exercising reproductive choice, and resulting in women being forced to carry nearly every pregnancy to full term, involves mental and physical suffering constituting violence against women.

The UN body has found that restrictive abortion laws in Northern Ireland are in breach of the UK's global human rights obligations, and called on the UK Government to change the law to decriminalise abortion and to provide greater access to abortion for women and girls in the region. The maximum penalty for an illegal abortion in Northern Ireland is life imprisonment. She added that the situation in Northern Ireland constituted violence against women that may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In 2016, 724 women traveled from Northern Ireland to England and Wales to obtain an abortion, and 3,265 made the trip from the Republic.

Mr Allamby said: "Today's report is timely as the commission is waiting for the outcome of our own legal challenge".

The Commission brought a case on the issue to the UK Supreme Court.

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The committee on the elimination of discrimination against women (CEDAW) said thousands of women and girls in Northern Ireland faced "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".

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International said the report made it clear that it was the UK's responsibility to take urgent action.

But Nola Leach, chief executive of Christian lobbying charity CARE, noted that the Belfast Court of Appeal past year ruled Northern Ireland's abortion law is not incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights. "Northern Ireland's current legislation on abortion provides support for the unborn child; we should not seek to undermine or remove that protection".

A year later, the Assembly voted against legalising abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality by 59 votes to 40 and in cases of sexual crime by 64 votes to 30.

Since June 2017, women from Northern Ireland have no longer had to pay for abortions in England, and Scotland and Wales had similar plans to ensure they were not charged, it said.

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