Humanists UK at UN calls for UK Government to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland

13 March, 2019

Humanists UK representative Rachel Taggart-Ryan

Humanists UK has called upon member states at the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council to hold the UK Government to account over its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to allow safe, legal, and effective access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

Humanists UK representative Rachel Taggart-Ryan stated, ‘Abortion law in Northern Ireland does not allow for terminations in these circumstances. The law is one of the most restrictive in Europe and the criminal sanctions imposed are amongst the harshest in the world, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment. Current restrictions force women to either travel to Britain to receive treatment, risk prosecution for procuring illegal online abortion pills, or continue their pregnancies against their wishes and in violation of their rights.

‘In February last year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women stated that criminal restrictions on access to abortion in Northern Ireland are a severe and systemic breach of women’s human rights. The UK Supreme Court reached the same conclusion in June, stating that the current law is untenable and in need of radical reconsideration.’

Ms Taggart-Ryan told the Council that the UK’s human rights obligations are the responsibility of the UK Government to fulfil and cannot be dismissed by deference to the Northern Ireland Assembly, which has not sat in over two years.

Humanists UK is a member of the Voice for Choice Coalition.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

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