How abortion is restricted in the UK, explained in three minutes

One area of the UK has some of the harshest abortion laws in Europe. Here we explain how.

Siobhan Fenton,Thomas Goulding
Monday 06 February 2017 22:25
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The UK's own abortion ban, explained in 3 minutes

Unlike the rest of the UK, it is a criminal offence to have an abortion in Northern Ireland.

This is the case even in the event of rape or incest, or a fatal foetal disability. The only exception is if doctors consider a woman’s life to be in serious and imminent danger.

Having an unlawful termination carries the same legal weight as murder, meaning women in Northern Ireland can face life in prison if they go ahead with the procedure.

In November 2016, the Belfast High Court ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion ban breaches international human rights law.

However, the region’s parliament is deeply religious and politicians are largely opposed to any reform on grounds of their faith, meaning they have repeatedly voted down legislative changes.

However, pressure on the laws is growing. Increasing access to the internet means women are able to buy abortion pills online from overseas and ship them in to Northern Ireland illegally.

A recent spate of court cases have seen women charged with buying the pills online, further heightening tensions around the laws.

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