Consultation launched on legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland
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Louise Heath
The government has issued a consultation document on a new legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland. Parliament passed legislation in July 2019 to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women's (CEDAW's) inquiry into abortion law in Northern Ireland.
From 22 October 2019, as devolution was not restored, a moratorium on criminal prosecutions and police investigations came into effect. The additional recommendations will be implemented on 31 March 2020.
The consultation on the framework seeks views on whether an appropriate approach is to allow for termination of pregnancy on any grounds up to 12 or 14 weeks to cover the CEDAW inquiry recommendations. It also seeks views on whether to extend abortion without a time limit in cases of severe and fatal foetal abnormality.
Additional issues of certification of opinion, notification requirements and conscientious objection are also addressed. Moreover, it canvasses opinion on whether new powers are required to protect women utilising services from harassment from anti-abortion protesters. Views are sought by 16 December 2019.
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 these issues including legal challenges to existing law. For more details see 'Abortion, equal marriage and civil partnerships in Northern Ireland: an update'.

About the author(s)

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