Women seeking abortions in Northern Ireland are still struggling to access services. The Guardian reports that although abortion was legalised more than two months ago, claims persist that healthcare professionals are refusing to treat patients. A leading reproductive rights group and a doctors’ organisation say that GPs are refusing to refer pregnant women to hospital services so they can access the tablets needed to undergo a medical abortion. They are also aware of midwives and nurses refusing to care for patients before and after the procedure.
As a result, women are ordering abortion pills online from European charities, travelling overseas during lockdown, or continuing with their unwanted pregnancy. Naomi Connor, co-convener for Alliance For Choice, a leading reproductive rights group, says services have regressed to the worst level in 50 years as women are allegedly being denied care.
Dr Laura McLaughlin, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist from Doctors for Choice NI, is quoted in The Guardian as saying: “Some GPs have been very vocal about being obstructive towards either a service or any woman that comes to them for help (for an abortion). There are also nurses and midwives that don’t want to be on the floor or in the room when something like that (an abortion) is happening.”
Abortion was legalised on 31 March after a decades-long campaign. Terminations can now be carried out up to 12 weeks on request, and up to 24 weeks if the mother’s mental or physical health is jeopardised. In cases of fatal foetal abnormality or impairment, no time restrictions apply.
Some doctors have publicly declared their opposition to abortion under any circumstance, the report says.Full report in The Guardian