Abortion law change will remove vital protections against coercive abortions

(Photo: Unsplash/Janko Ferlič)

Unless an Executive is reformed in Northern Ireland on Monday 21 October 2019, vital protections will be removed from women protecting them from coercive abortions - protections which women in England will continue to enjoy. This is the claim which is evidenced by a legal opinion from leading British QC Ian Wise that was released today by Both Lives Matter.

Wise states:

"The non-consensual administration of an abortion pill to a pregnant woman, which causes an abortion but which does not harm the mother which may have given rise to a criminal liability under section 58 may not give rise to such a liability under section 24. It follows from the above that I am of the opinion that there are circumstances where neither section 24 of the 1861 Act nor section 25 of the 1945 Act outlaw non-consensual or coercive abortions."

This is a bad law being implemented through a bad process leading to bad consequences for both women and unborn children.

We hold a deep concern for both women and their unborn children and believe that the current law here protects both about as far as humanly possible.

If the Executive is not reformed on Monday, every legal protection will be removed from the unborn child until they are capable of being born alive or until 28 weeks in the womb. However what many people don't realise is that, especially in the regulatory vacuum which will follow, vital protections will also be removed from women.

Laws which currently make it a criminal offence for someone to administer an abortifacient pill to a woman without her knowledge, causing the loss of her unborn child, are being removed. We know from news reports that cases like these happen, including in the UK.

This removes important protections from very vulnerable women and unborn children.

Ironically those who are championing the removal of the current law and abortion under the guise of woman's rights, are making backstreet and forced abortions easier than ever by removing legal protections from women.

There is a lot of politicking going on around the recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday. Those who claim that women's rights are being denied unless the law changes, have to accept that important protections will be removed from women in Northern Ireland if the Northern Ireland Assembly is not restored on Monday - protections that because of the dreadful way this law is being imposed, will not be taken away from women in England.

It is not right that women in Northern Ireland should be treated like this. That is why the recall of the Assembly on Monday is so very important.

Dawn McAvoy is co-founder of Both Lives Matter, a pro-life advocacy organisation in Northern Ireland.