Northern Irish women had been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017. They were allowed to travel to the rest of the U.K. to procure abortions during the coronavirus outbreak.
Right to Life UK said the figures from six and a half months of legal abortion suggest the Northern Ireland legislation is resulting in more abortions than previously sought. Throughout all of 2019, 1,014 Northern Ireland women are known to have traveled to England or Wales for an abortion, and fewer than 10 traveled to Scotland for an abortion, according to the U.K. Department of Social Care and Scotland's Information Services.
The pro-life group Precious Life NI held a "life chain" event outside Stormont Oct. 24 to mark the anniversary and to protest the pro-abortion rights aspects of Parliament's act, known as Section 9. Seventeen "life chain" events took place across Northern Ireland, following social distancing regulations to limit spread of the coronavirus.
"As long as a single precious unborn baby is in danger, then our work is not yet finished," said Bernadette Smyth, director of Precious Life NI. "Our life chain events today sent out a clear message to our Assembly: repeal Section 9 and restore personhood for Northern Ireland's unborn children."
The group's Stormont display used hundreds of pairs of baby shoes with a boy's or girl's name pinned to them, and arranged to spell the letters "664" the previous count of legal abortions in Northern Ireland.
A heartbeat monitor was held to the stomach of a pregnant mother and the baby's heartbeat was amplified through the public address system. A mother whose son was born with the help of the Stanton Healthcare pregnancy resource center in Belfast spoke at the event and thanked people for their support.
Under Northern Ireland law, abortions may be performed at general practitioners premises, and Health and Social Care clinics and hospitals. Medical abortions are permitted up to 10 weeks, and the first drug used in the two-drug process, mifepristone, must be taken at a clinic.
Right to Life UK warned that abortion backers seek to expand legal access to "do-it-yourself" home abortions using this two-drug regimen, despite what it says are"serious safety concerns." The U.K. government has allowed these abortions in England, following consultation with a doctor, as have the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.
"All three governments made the very substantial change without any public consultation, parliamentary scrutiny or debate," the pro-life group objected.
NGOs like the British Pregnancy Advisory Services and abortion providers like Marie Stopes International have been pressuring Stormont to allow the abortion drugs to be administered at home.
The Republic of Ireland, where 66% of voters chose to legalize abortion in a 2018 referendum to remove strong protections for unborn babies from the national constitution, saw a total of 6,666 abortions in 2019.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter