When the High Court in Belfast ruled last month that Northern Ireland's abortion legislation was "incompatible" with human rights law, I expected there to be some objections. However, with both the Attorney General and Justice Minister lodging appeals against that decision.
Now the Justice Minister unlike the Attorney General admits that some change does need to be made to Northern Ireland's abortion laws, his words show a certain bias none the less. David Ford has said:
"The judgement from the High Court does not fully clarify the law and potentially leaves open the possibility there could be abortion on demand in Northern Ireland on an even wider basis than is the case in the rest of the United Kingdom."
Firstly the use of the phrase abortion of demand ignores the fact that many Northern Irish women already access abortion within the confines of the law in the rest of the UK. The way to stop there being legal challenges as to the compatibility with human rights law is to act in a positive direction to relax the restrictions not challenge a ruling that says you need to act.
What they need most is support prior and post the terminations which do happen. We need that support on demand! Hoiwever, with the current archaic laws in Northern Ireland they fear being arrested for taking whatever means they have done to terminate a pregnancy. The fact that future gynecological issues may arise because of earlier terminations, but such women in Northern Ireland may fear seeking assistance for these because of their secret, taboo, history.
I do not think any makes a decision for termination lightly. It is an emotive subject with heated arguments on both sides of the debates. But the people for who it is the most emotive are not the protesters outside the Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast, not are they the feminists who stand up loudly against just such protesters. Not the people for whom this is most emotive are of course the women carrying the foetus/unborn child (depending on your viewpoint) and those who care for them secondly.
So while we continue to fail to move any distance on abortion here in Northern Ireland we are incompatible with human rights law and that is we are enslaving many women to a live of fear of authorities finding out what they may have done in their past, or might have to consider in the future.
Personally I want to see the 1967 Act extended to Northern Ireland but I certainly believe we need to go some distance further than even the limited position that the Department of Justice has said it is prepared to move.