Abortion access still limited in Northern Ireland

Abortion access still limited in Northern Ireland

There remain significant barriers to abortion access in Northern Ireland four years on from decriminalisation, according to a new report.

Amnesty International’s 159-page report, Legal but not local: Barriers to accessing abortion services in Northern Ireland, lays bare “the failures and wide-ranging obstacles facing access to this essential healthcare”.

The research, conducted between September 2022 and August 2023 and which tracks barriers to the end of August 2023, is based on desktop research, freedom of information requests and over 60 interviews with women, healthcare providers, healthcare professional bodies, civil society representatives, academics and government representatives concerning access to abortion services in Northern Ireland.

A particularly significant barrier, according to the report, is the lack of self-care interventions for abortion, including telemedicine, which is available in England, Scotland and Wales.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland deputy director, said: “Four years on from decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, access is a right but not a reality for all who need it. The report identifies barriers preventing access to this vital and time-sensitive healthcare which must be addressed.

“Abortion care which prioritises a person’s needs and provides impartial advice, is local and is a safe space, should be the minimum anyone can expect.

“Telemedicine must be introduced without further delay. It will particularly benefit those who face other forms of discrimination or barriers in access to healthcare — whether that’s people who live in rural areas, have limited or no access to transport, are in violent or coercive relationships or are concerned about confidentiality.

“We recognise that commissioning is an ongoing process and services are slowly being set up, but the harmful reality of full provision not being available is of significant concern. The recommendations in this report chart a way to deliver human rights compliant care and should be actioned immediately.

“Choice must mean choice: in practice and not just on paper. By now, this historic legal reform should be giving people safe access to the full range of abortion services. We must see a faster pace of change. Access to quality abortion healthcare is not optional — it’s an essential human right.”

Share icon
Share this article: