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NI Human Rights Chief Commissioner responds to Abortion Services Statement

24 Mar 2022

The Northern Ireland Chief Commissioner for Human Rights has responded to statement on abortion services issued today by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Chief Commissioner Alyson Kilpatrick stated:

“Whilst we welcome that the Secretary of State is taking steps to secure provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, we remain concerned about the impact the delay continues to have upon the human rights of women and girls.

The Secretary of State remains under a statutory duty to act expeditiously, which was confirmed by the High Court last year. The Department of Health, which the Court found last year to have delayed, has failed to put in place a service by 31 March as per the Abortion Regulations.

In 2022 women and girls in Northern Ireland are still faced with deplorable options including: having to travel to England to access abortion services; being forced to continue a pregnancy against their wishes; or take unregulated abortion pills.

Today’s statement goes some way toward rectifying this. We welcome that this measure will remove the need for Executive approval, however we are concerned that no deadline has been placed on the Department of Health other than to act as soon as “reasonably practicable”.

The NI Human Rights Commission will continue to consider this matter in light of today’s statement and consider what steps are necessary to ensure all relevant human rights obligations are met.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

For interview requests please contact Jason McKeown on 07769 361 156 or through jason.mckeown@nihrc.org

1. The NI Human Rights Commission is a statutory public body established in 1999 to promote and protect human rights. In accordance with the Paris Principles the Commission reviews the adequacy and effectiveness of measures undertaken by the UK Government to promote and protect human rights, specifically within Northern Ireland.

2. Today’s written statement from the Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis on the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland can be viewed here.

3. You can read the Commission’s statement from 14 October to the High Court judgment in its judicial review challenge to: the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; the NI Executive; and, the Department of Health for Northern Ireland. The challenge was in respect of the failure to commission and fund abortion services in Northern Ireland.

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