Atheist NI urges MLAs to vote this Wednesday to change the law on abortion in Northern Ireland, bringing it in line with international human rights standards.
Following the judgement of the Human Rights Commission’s judicial review on 30th November, the NI assembly must now act to change the law to uphold the rights of women and girls whose pregnancy has a severe or fatal foetal diagnosis, or is a result of sexual crime.
A legal change for fatal foetal abnormality (FFA)/sexual crime is also the view of the majority of voters across all genders, religions and political allegiances, as evidenced by Amnesty International’s recent polling.
Northern Irish abortions happen, they just happen in England and elsewhere. In the case of sexual crime/FFA denying women access to local healthcare leads to additional trauma by forcing women to a costly and lonely journey abroad. The way abortion is discussed by some MLAs in the Assembly, by likening it to murder and criminalised as such only adds to the trauma.
Worryingly, two unnamed women are facing criminal charges for taking or supplying safe medication to end a pregnancy, as not everyone has the means to travel to England, despite the threat of life imprisonment.
Atheists are also more likely to be pro-choice according to several internal surveys; I’ve previously written about the link between religion and attitudes towards abortion. Abortion laws in Northern Ireland are overwhelmingly informed by a limited and conservative form of Christianity. These law are not merely in breach of international human rights standards on female reproduction, but also do not respect the freedom of conscience of most atheist, secular and progressive women and health care practitioners.
We therefore urge a vote in favour of a change to the law this Wednesday and support a wider discussion on decriminalisation of abortion, rather than condemning NI citizens to travel abroad or suffer at home.