Northern Ireland news

Billboard campaign against new abortion regulations in Northern Ireland

The regulations were published by the British government last week
Brendan Hughes

A BILLBOARD campaign is being launched against new abortion regulations in Northern Ireland.

The regulations were published by the British government last week after Westminster last year decriminalised abortion in the north in a landmark law change amid Stormont's absence.

They will allow abortion on request for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and up to 24 weeks on the grounds that continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk of injury to the woman's physical or mental health.

Abortion will also be available in cases of severe and fatal foetal anomalies, with no gestational limit.

The regulations have been generally welcomed by groups who campaigned for abortion law reform, but heavily criticised by anti-abortion campaigners.

The "repeal section 9" billboard advertisements, by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), will appear across the north.

As part of the campaign, SPUC is asking people to sign an online petition.

Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland political officer, said MPs "treated the devolution settlement with complete contempt" and the regulations being introduced by the Secretary of State "lack all legitimacy".

"They should be rejected outright and section 9 of the Executive Formation Act, which has no mandate from the people of Northern Ireland, should be repealed," he said.

He added: "Our campaign aims to build public support for the repeal of section 9 and for the legal recognition that all unborn children share an equal right to life, regardless of the stage of their development, the state of their health or the circumstances of their conception."

Amnesty International broadly welcomed the regulations last week, but expressed concern that the guidelines do not permit women to take both abortion pills at home, during a time when government advice has been against travel to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Amnesty's Grainne Teggart said: "Travel for this healthcare is neither a safe nor viable option at the moment and government should be doing what it can to help women in the safety of their home."

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