Detail of outcome
Government response to public consultation
The Government undertook a six-week public consultation on the proposals for the new framework that would provide lawful access to abortion services in Northern Ireland. The consultation opened on 4 November 2019 and closed on 16 December 2019 and we carefully analysed all of the submissions received. We particularly welcomed the submissions from health professionals, statutory bodies and people with lived experience in Northern Ireland in informing the final framework.
The Government response outlines the background to the consultation, including the legal duty on the Government to change the abortion law in Northern Ireland, a summary of the consultation exercise, and some detail on the engagement we undertook during the consultation period. An overview of the new framework for access to abortion services in Northern Ireland is also set out, with chapter 3 providing a high level overview of the consultation analysis undertaken for each element of the final framework, mirroring the themes set out in the consultation. We have also outlined additional matters raised by respondents that were not consulted on but that are relevant to operational and service delivery of the new legislative framework. Finally, we set out in full the legislative duty under section 9(1) of the NI EF Act, which requires that the recommendations in paragraphs 85 and 86 of the CEDAW report are implemented in respect of Northern Ireland and how each of these are being taken forward.
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.