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UK Government to intervene to guarantee Northern Ireland abortion provision

Update, 23 March: Since this news item was originally published on 23 March, these regulations have been laid.

Original story: The Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis is to lay new regulations before the Westminster Parliament, which grant him the power to order the Northern Ireland Department for Health (DoH) to commission abortion services for all who need it. The DoH has up to now failed to properly commission services, meaning many people have still had to travel to England – prompting the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to take legal action. Northern Ireland Humanists, which successfully campaigned to repeal the country’s strict abortion laws, has welcomed Mr Lewis’s announcement.

The failure to commission services has meant that some trusts have suspended abortion services or have been unable to provide them at all. During the pandemic over 100 Northern Ireland women still had to travel to England to receive abortion care. Last week Mr Lewis tweeted that he would ‘welcome a renewed focus on the NI Executive securing the abortion services that women and girls are legally and morally entitled to. We should all take our obligations on this issue incredibly seriously – it is a human right to be able to access quality healthcare.’

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘There is a clear legal obligation on the Northern Ireland Executive to make sure that every pregnant person has access to  safe, legal, and local access to abortion. This was determined by the UN Committee on the Eradication of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in its report on abortion in Northern Ireland and enacted through Westminster by the repeal of the criminal offence and the passing of regulations. Abortion in Northern Ireland is therefore a settled matter. The failure of the DoH to commission these services looks like a disappointing attempt to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of free safe and legal reproductive health care..’


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at or phone 02890 029946.

Read the CEDAW report

Read about Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission’s legal challenge.

Read more about our work on abortion.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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