Responding to the equalities debate at the Usdaw Annual Delegate Meeting in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Dave McCrossen – Usdaw Deputy General Secretary said:
“We respect that it is a woman's right to make her own decision regarding her pregnancy, but the law in Northern Ireland is out of step with both the rest of the UK and much of Europe.
“Women are being forced into unwanted and unsafe pregnancies, putting their health at risk. They are being left with no other option, than to go outside the law to buy online medication or travel at great expense, often alone and without support, to seek abortions in England. This puts women under extreme stress and trauma at an already difficult time.
“The risks to a woman's liberty from this law are real. It is being used against women right now, today. In Northern Ireland at the moment, one mother faces imprisonment for buying abortion medication for her young daughter, who would otherwise have needed to travel to England for the care she needed. Another woman is in the process of being prosecuted for inducing her own abortion. No woman should face prison in these circumstances and no doctor should be prosecuted for providing safe abortion care.
“In 2018 the UK Supreme Court found the law in Northern Ireland to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the absence of Governance at Stormont means it's up to Westminster to act. The Cross-Party Women and Equalities Committee said last week that the government in Westminster should ‘legislate as a matter of urgency’ to reform abortion law in Northern Ireland.
“We know that the weight of public opinion in Northern Ireland is behind abortion law reform. 85% agree that women should not be arrested and prosecuted for seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
“Our policy already supports access to safe and legal abortions for women in Northern Ireland and we are affiliated to ‘We Trust Women’, a campaign that is pressing for abortion to be removed from criminal law. So we fully support the call to take abortion out of the criminal law in Northern Ireland.
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 420,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
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