Labour would extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland

The Abortion Act does not currently apply to the province

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Indy Politics

A Labour government would extend abortion rights enjoyed by women across England, Scotland and Wales to women in Northern Ireland.

According to a leaked draft version of the party's manifesto Jeremy Corbyn's party would "legislate to extend" the right to a "safe, legal abortion" to women in the province.

The 1967 Abortion Act was never applied to Northern Ireland and thousands of women a year are denied access to safe and legal terminations.

Women in NI only have access to terminations under a 1945 law that provides abortion if a woman's life is at risk or her health is at serious risk. 

The rules are strict however, with foetal abnormalities, rape and incest not considered circumstances under which abortions can be legally performed.

Those who have abortions in other circumstances face life in prison under the law, with a number having been prosecuted in the last year. 

It is common for those requiring the medical procedure to travel to Great Britain in order to secure a termination, but this is not always possible for those on lower incomes.

In November 2015 the Belfast High Court found that the abortion ban breached human rights but the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly voted against relaxing it.

The leaked draft of Labours manifesto reads: "Labour will continue to ensure a woman's right to choose a safe, legal abortion - and we will legislate to extend that right to women in Northern Ireland."

In common with all the GB parties Labour has no representation in Northern Ireland. Campaigners welcomed the pledge, however.

Cara Sanquest of the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign said: "We are very encouraged to see that the Labour Party has included in its draft manifesto a commitment to extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland. This is a clear indication that the Labour Party recognises the rights of women in Northern Ireland.

"Those living in other parts of the UK can access free and safe abortions on the NHS, under the 1967 Abortion Act.

"This right was never extended to Northern Ireland. We are aware that the manifesto is currently in draft. We urge the Labour Party to retain this vital pledge and provide more information. We'd also strongly encourage other parties to follow suit when publishing their manifestos."

The final manifesto is being decided at the party's so-called Clause V meeting at the Savoy Place conference centre on London today. The party says it doesn't comment on leaks.

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