The UK Government has today published a consultation paper, A legal framework for abortion services in Northern Ireland.
This consultation is in relation to the implementation of the legal duty under section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 - and will inform a new framework for access to abortion services in Northern Ireland that is consistent with the recommendations of the 2018 United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women Report, Inquiry concerning the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
The consultation will run for six weeks and the UK Government would welcome comments from anyone in Northern Ireland with an interest or view, particularly those directly impacted by the current law and any proposed changes and health professionals, to inform the shape of legislation to be introduced by 31 March 2020.
In his foreword to the consultation, Rt Hon Julian Smith MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said:
In considering these proposals, I remain acutely aware that the provision of abortion services are devolved to Northern Ireland, including health and social services. I am also deeply sympathetic to the fact that this is a highly sensitive and complex matter, with differing and strongly held views across society.
I have made the case to party leaders in Northern Ireland that the best way of dealing with this issue would be to form an Executive that could take forward these commitments in the best interests in Northern Ireland - unfortunately, this has not been possible to achieve.
With a legal duty now placed on the Government to change the abortion law in Northern Ireland, this consultation focuses on what new regulatory framework must be put in place for lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland. In doing so, the health and safety of women and girls, and clarity and certainty for the medical profession, are at the forefront of the Government’s consideration.
We welcome responses to the questions set out in the below consultation document - either through completing the online form or sending submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org before 11.45pm on Monday 16th December 2019.