Ireland: Women’s Health Group Calls for Clarified Abortion Guidelines

Northern Ireland’s Family Planning Association (FPA) has issued an appeal asking the Department of Health to release guidelines regarding its abortion laws. The FPA argues that women who are entitled to an abortion in Ireland are often turned away because of lack of clarity in the laws, according to BBC News. Last year, the High Court of Belfast rejected the FPA’s call to issue guidelines.

According to Reuters, the director of the FPA, Audrey Simpson, said, “Lack of clarity around the interpretation of the law governing abortion and the chill effect of conscientious objection to abortion by individual medical practitioners are jointly responsible for denying women health services.” Simpson went on to say that “by refusing to issue guidelines, the department has effectively turned a blind eye to the needs of women seeking a legal abortion in Northern Ireland.”

Currently, women in Northern Ireland can only legally obtain abortions when the mother’s life is in danger or when there is a serious long-term threat to her health, reports BBC News. About 40,000 women over the past twenty years have gone to England, where medical abortion is legal, to obtain an abortion.

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BBC News 5/24/04; Reuters 5/24/04; Ireland Online 5/24/04

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