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The BHA reports:

Northern Ireland Humanists, the national organisation representing the non-religious in Northern Ireland, has expressed concerns over calls for police interference in anew abortion aftercare service launched by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).

The new service from BPAS aims to provide advice and support to women in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man who have taken abortion pills bought online. Abortion remains illegal in all three territories, and in Northern Ireland, where the British Humanist Association (BHA) operates as Northern Ireland Humanists, the ban on abortion persists despite widespread public opposition.

Since the announcement of the new service, the organisation Precious Life has been pressing the police to investigate both BPAS and the women who have called their helpline. Northern Ireland Humanists has condemned these calls on the basis that they are inflammatory and dangerous: they risk forcing women to take even more desperate, dangerous, and unregulated measures to control their reproductive health in the complete absence of medical advice.

Around a thousand women travel from Northern Ireland to England or Wales each year in order to have an abortion. Those who cannot afford this will often resort to buying abortion drugs online and taking them unsupervised. Recently, a young woman from Northern Ireland was given a six-month suspended sentence for using abortion pills after being prosecuted under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Boyd Sleator of Northern Ireland Humanists commented, ‘The new service from BPAS provides a valuable safety net for women who want to take control of their own reproductive sexual health, and is staffed by trained nurses who provide an aftercare service helping women who have taken abortion pills at home.

‘There is no sign that women will stop seeking abortions in Northern Ireland and in the present situation such procedures are likely to be dangerous and unregulated, with no aftercare or support. The abortion ban in Northern Ireland has been widely condemned, found in breach of women’s human rights, and is unpopular with the public. Rather than criminalise women who find themselves in a desperate situation, we should be looking to replace our outdated, Victorian abortion laws.’

Notes

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of the British Humanist Association, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The British Humanist Association is a member of the BPAS ‘We Trust Women’ campaign which seeks to decriminalise abortion throughout the UK. Read about the We Trust Women campaign: http://www.wetrustwomen.org.uk/

Read more about the BHA’s position on sexual health and reproductive rights: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...