Britain passed the Abortion Act 51 years ago saving over 50 women annually dying from botched abortions. And so, when Éire recently voted to relax the restrictive abortion law by 2:1 it was a victory for women’s reproductive health. And for women’s Human Rights. But Northern Ireland’s law still controls women’s bodies and their human rights denied. In N-Ireland there is a near-total ban on abortion. And any woman caught trying to own her body and having an abortion could face lengthy imprisonment. So, we live in a country where the rights of women differ. Now Theresa May, feminist in name but not action, could change that. But she refuses. May hides behind the devolved powers of the Northern Ireland Assembly. But Parliament has not devolved Human Rights issues. And all British women should have access to proper reproductive healthcare.
The conservative argument bandied about is that the foetus is a human life. They even parade graphic pictures as proof. Have you noticed how religious zealots who are anti-abortion campaigners grab on to scientific theories?
Scientific fact, not theory, shows that half of all fertilised eggs are lost before the first missed menstrual cycle. And 10% more are lost during the next three months of pregnancy. So, the potential for human life is always lost during the pregnancy process. But there are countries that jail women who miscarry.
Human life, therefore, begins when a child is born. And the foetus is no longer physiologically dependent on the mother. Thus, a woman’s life should not be equated with that of a foetus. And at law, the embryo is not a legal entity. So, shouldn’t the woman be the first person, the only person, to decide to have an abortion? After all, she will care for the child until her end of days.
Now I am always befuddled by those who vehemently argue the right to life. I find they are commonly the same people who argue against public spending on caring for human life. I explore the moral inconsistency of pro-life on this link.
Anywhere abortion is banned women will die from attempting to terminate. Globally 13% of women die from unsafe procedures. But women are so desperate that they take their lives in their hands. And that is ironic because abortion is only legal if it constitutes a threat to a woman’s life.
So, it’s folly to believe that abortion does not happen in N-Ireland. Abortion pills are available over the internet. However, the authorities could prosecute women who are caught. But, in N-Ireland reported rape cases have doubled in a decade and rape crisis centres are non-existent.
The Supreme Court has ruled that N-Ireland’s existing law is incompatible with human rights law in cases of incest, fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime. And a couple of Judges even said that the law in N- Ireland is also incompatible with the prohibition on torture.
Abortion Rights Are Human Rights
And so because Judges have identified N-Ireland’s abortion law as incompatible with Human Rights, May no longer has an excuse. I would have expected that feminist May would have jumped at the opportunity to improve women’s lives. Parliament could repeal N-Ireland’s 1861 Act as necessary. And introduce legislation that makes abortion a medical procedure throughout the UK. Thereby revoking the criminal status, it carries.
Disagreeing with me is okay. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. But let’s respect the right of other women to make that decision or not for themselves. And because terminations are a reproductive healthcare issue, let’s not criminalise women in the process.
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Abortion in Ireland: Ava’s experiences