Alliance for Choice - Extend the Act (FAQs)


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Extend the Act - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do to get the 1967 Abortion Act applied in Norther Ireland?

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Campaign to Extend Abortion Act to NI    

A woman from NI protests outside Westminster 2008.

(Photograph © Jess Hurd 2008)

Aren’t most people in NI opposed to abortion?

No. Opinion polls etc suggest that most people would support the availability of abortion under the limited circumstances allowed by the 1967 Abortion Act. Politicians here seem to think that because people in NI vote along religious lines, this means they live their lives according to the edicts of the religions concerned. But more than half (58 percent) of all births in Belfast in 2007 were to unmarried parents, with more than three quarters of these registering the birth jointly with a partner. And sex outside of marriage remains a sin in the eyes of every Christian church.

All of NI’s largest unions and many of the smaller ones, support extension of the Act. In most cases, this policy has been voted on at branch level and then endorsed by Irish or NI regional conferences – a more democratic approach than that of the political parties who stand for election on sectarian lines and then tell us we’ve voted for their position on abortion.

Anyway, abortion is already a reality in Northern Ireland. Since 1967, tens of thousands of women have had to travel to England and pay for a procedure that is free on the NHS in the rest of the UK. However, thousands of others are forced to continue pregnancies they very much do not want. This includes women pregnant as a result of rape and sexual abuse.

A woman’s right to choose is all very well, but once a woman is pregnant isn’t there another life involved?

Anti-abortionists argue that, from the moment of conception, the embryo or foetus IS an actual human being. They point out that it has all the genetic material a human being needs, that the colour of the eyes, hair etc. are all pre-coded in the just-fertilised egg. Therefore, they argue, it is a human being with rights equal to that of the woman. Of course the foetus is a potential human being, just as an acorn is a potential oak tree. All the genetic material an oak tree needs is in the acorn, the size of tree it is likely to become etc. is all pre-coded in the acorn. But the acorn is NOT an oak tree. And the foetus is NOT a human being.

Whether the potential for the foetus to become a human being is achieved depends entirely on the body of the woman carrying it. Only her body can nourish the foetus and turn it into a human being. It is totally dependent for its life on the use of her, and only her, body. This relationship between the woman and the foetus she is carrying is quite unique. It is not one which should be forced on any woman.

But I’ve seen the photos of aborted babies – how can that be right?

The Precious Life posters tell lies about abortion – they show fully-formed foetuses of 24-30 weeks but almost 90% of abortions in Britain take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – most women who are happy to be pregnant don’t tell anyone but close family and friends about it until after 12 weeks because they know so many pregnancies end in early miscarriage. It’s not seen as stillbirth. Unfortunately, because women from NI have to find the money to pay for a private abortion, they tend to have later abortions than are the norm on the NHS. A third of women from NI have their abortions after 12 weeks.

Do women regret having an abortion?

Most women feel a sense of relief. They suggest that the most stressful thing is coming to the decision to terminate, particularly when the circumstances are difficult. Some women may experience feelings of sadness and loss; this is not  a mental illness, it is just a normal reaction to what can be a negative event.

However, women may be distressed if the circumstances surrounding the abortion were especially stressful, e.g. if it had been illegal and frightening; if secrecy had been essential; if the woman had been unsure about her decision to have an abortion or if she had wanted to continue the pregnancy, but, for medical reasons, or because of an unscrupulous boyfriend/partner, had to have an abortion.

“All other things being equal, rates of psychiatric disorder are no higher after an abortion than after child birth”. (Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Patricia Casey, a leading anti-abortionist in Ireland)

Do some women use abortion as contraception?

There is no evidence from countries where abortion is legal to support the assertion that women are careless about using contraception because abortion is available. Unplanned pregnancy is a distressing situation for any woman and choosing to have an abortion can be a difficult decision. The use of contraception is continuously rising but no method is 100 per cent effective. People’s sex lives are often unpredictable so contraception may not always be used as effectively or regularly as it might be.

Are all abortions operations?

Medical abortion [the abortion pill] is widely used in Britain to provide abortions up to 9 weeks. It is, “a safe, effective and acceptable alternative to surgical abortion for women between 9 and 13 weeks of gestation”. (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Guidelines on abortion, para 44)

Does abortion lead to breast cancer?

Breast cancer: induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk. (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Guidelines on abortion, para 16.7)

Does abortion leave women infertile?

There is no evidence that abortions affect future reproductive outcomes. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Guidelines on abortion, para 16.8) “there are no proven associations between induced abortion and subsequent ectopic pregnancy, placenta praevia or infertility. Abortion may be associated with a small increase in the risk of subsequent miscarriage or preterm delivery.”

© Alliance for Choice 2012