GENEVA, February 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said today that Northern Ireland is violating women’s rights by restricting their access to abortion.
Unique among the nations that make up the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland allows abortion only when the mother’s life or health is endangered by her pregnancy. As a result, abortion in Northern Ireland is rare. In 2016/17, only 13 abortions were carried out in the country.
“Denial of abortion and criminalisation of abortion amounts to discrimination against women because it is a denial of a service that only women need. And it puts women in horrific situations,” stated CEDAW spokeswoman Ruth Halperin-Kaddari.
She claimed that Northern Ireland’s pro-life stance “constitutes violence against women that may amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The government of the United Kingdom denied the charges, indicating that women of Northern Ireland have access to abortion in the rest of the UK.
The UN report recommended decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland, making contraception available, downplaying women’s primary role as mothers, and cracking down on public pro-life witness.
The BBC is reporting that the U.N. committee is comprised of 23 international “experts on women’s rights.”
In its coverage, it quoted Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International, who is calling on the British Parliament at Westminster to further liberalize abortion laws.
“The U.N. Committee is very clear that it is the UK government which is responsible for ensuring that our laws are in line with the state’s international human rights obligations,” she said. “Devolution–even if functioning–does not relieve the UK government of their responsibility to uphold human rights in Northern Ireland.”
Devolution refers to the limited self-rule of the different nations within Great Britain. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own governing bodies, and certain ministries, like Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, are devolved, or the responsibility, of these assemblies.
There have been challenges to Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law, from both within and without the nation.
In 2015, a High Court Judge ruled that it violated the European Convention on Human rights by not allowing abortions of babies with fatal disabilities or who were conceived as a result of sexual crimes. However, in 2016, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted against liberalizing the law to permit the killing of these babies. In 2017, both However, both UK Parliament and the Scottish government have pledged to pay the costs associated with abortions for Northern Irish women who travel to England or Scotland to procure them.
Seven hundred women reportedly travel from Northern Ireland to Britain every year for abortions. However, these statistics are open to interpretation. Asked in Scottish Parliament in 2017 about the number of abortions performed on Irish women in Scotland, the Health Minister replied, “The total number of legal abortions performed in Scotland on women who are normally resident in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland during the period 2013 to 2015 was five.”