Guidance issued on abortion law for healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland
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Marc Bloomfield
The government has issued guidance for healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland on abortion law reform.1UK government guidance for healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland on abortion law and terminations of pregnancy in the period 22 October 2019 to 31 March 2020 in relation to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation Etc) Act 2019, Northern Ireland Office, October 2019. The guidance follows parliament passing legislation in July 20192Northern Ireland (Executive Formations etc) Act 2019 s9. to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s inquiry into abortion law in Northern Ireland.3Inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: report of the committee, CEDAW/C/OP.8/GBR/1, 6 March 2018.
From 22 October 2019, if there is no restoration of devolution, a moratorium on criminal prosecutions and police investigations will come into effect. The additional recommendations will be implemented on 31 March 2020.
The guidance sets out what will happen between these two dates, including that the financial support to cover travel and accommodation available to women journeying to Britain will no longer be means-tested and that terminations may be carried out in Northern Ireland lawfully in cases of fatal or serious foetal anomaly using clinical guidance available from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Guidance on the application of freedom of conscience is also included, utilising the General Medical Council’s existing guidelines. A further consultation document will be issued on or shortly after 22 October, on arrangements from 31 March 2020 onwards.
Provision to introduce equal marriage and civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples are also due to be implemented under the same legislation from 13 January 2020.
These changes follow long-standing campaigns on both issues including legal challenges to existing law.
 
1     UK government guidance for healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland on abortion law and terminations of pregnancy in the period 22 October 2019 to 31 March 2020 in relation to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation Etc) Act 2019, Northern Ireland Office, October 2019. »
2     Northern Ireland (Executive Formations etc) Act 2019 s9. »

About the author(s)

Description: Les Allamby - author
Les Allamby is the chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.