26 May 2010
Northern Ireland: Abortion law should change, gynaecologists suggest
A survey claims that the majority of gynaecologists in Northern Ireland 'do not support the current abortion law as it stands'.
Many also said they would carry out abortions under certain conditions, BBC News Online reports.
The survey, ‘Attitudes and practice of gynaecologists towards abortion in Northern Ireland’ (2009), was conducted by Colin Francome, Emeritus Professor in the Sociology of Health, at Middlesex University, England.
Of 42 gynaecologists working in Northern Ireland, 37 took part, giving a response rate of 88%.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they would support liberalising the current abortion law with more than two thirds agreeing that abortion should be legal on grounds of fetal abnormality.
Asked what conditions under which they would personally carry out abortions, 70% said they would be prepared to on grounds of fetal abnormality and 49% said they would where the woman has been raped.
The survey further sugggested that:
- 68% of NI gynaecologists agreed that abortion should be legal when the woman had been raped;
- 73% wanted free abortions for Northern Ireland women forced to travel overseas for the procedure;
- 51% supported major abortion charities being licensed to carry out abortions in Northern Ireland;
- Only 32% said the abortion law should stay as it is.
Colin Francome, who is also author of the 2004 book Abortion in the USA and the UK, said:
‘This is the second study I have carried out looking at the views of gynaecologists in Northern Ireland. This shows that the vast majority agree with the opinion that I also hold that the situation for women with an unwanted pregnancy is very unfair.’
Commenting on the survey’s findings, Dr Audrey Simpson OBE, Director of FPA Northern Ireland said:
‘A woman’s right to choose cannot continue to be ignored. It’s time to stop pretending that Northern Ireland women are different from women in the rest of the UK. The simple fact is they are not. When faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy they deserve and have a right to access health care services that are freely available in the rest of the UK.’
The survey was published before the hearing on the 27 May in the Belfast High Court on whether the interim Guidance on termination of pregnancy: the law and clinical practice in Northern Ireland by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety should be withdrawn. This is following a legal battle started by FPA in May 2001 to request the Department to issue guidelines regarding the provision of termination of pregnancy services in Northern Ireland.
Survey suggests easing of Northern Ireland abortion laws. BBC News Online, 26 May 2010
Liberalise the abortion law in Northern Ireland says over half of the country’s practising gynaecologists. fpa press release, 26 May 2010