Column: Women in Northern Ireland should have the same rights at the rest of the UK

Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP

Reproductive rights in Northern Ireland have been in focus this week following the vote in the Republic of Ireland to allow abortions, which was a fantastic victory for women’s rights.

Many people now believe that is time for this right to be extended to Northern Ireland.

I strongly believe that women should have the right to choose a safe and legal abortion.

At the last election, I stood on a manifesto which committed to ensure this right and to work with the Northern Ireland Assembly to extend this right to women in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, abortion is currently illegal, other than in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or if there is a permanent or serious risk to the mother’s physical or mental health.

The UK Government has consistently stated its view that because abortion is a devolved matter, the law in this area is a matter for 
the Northern Ireland Assembly.

While of course I would like to see devolved Government re-established in Northern Ireland, I believe that in its absence, the UK Government must act to uphold the human right to access an abortion.

In my view, it is an injustice that some women in the UK are being denied access to a safe, legal abortion.

Women in Northern Ireland should have the same rights as those in the rest of the UK and not have to travel to Great Britain or face potential prosecution and imprisonment at home.

An opinion poll by Amnesty International has found that almost 60 per cent of people in Northern Ireland support the decriminalisation of abortion.

I believe that abortion rights should be extended to women in Northern Ireland and I will support efforts to achieve this.