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Less than half of adults in Northern Ireland realise abortion is lawful in region

Only 10% of women in Northern Ireland know how to access abortion, according to a new poll.

LESS THAN HALF of adults in Northern Ireland are aware that abortion is lawful in the region, despite it being decriminalised there three years ago, a new poll shows. 

Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland on 21 October 2019. However, the UK Government is yet to establish commissioned abortion services in the region, leaving abortion provision inconsistent. 

People in the North are still travelling long distances to avail of abortions. In 2020 and 2021, a total of 161 people from the region travelled to England to access an abortion. 

The poll from Amnesty International UK shows that just 47% of adults in Northern Ireland are aware that abortion is lawful. 

Only 10% of women know how to access abortion and fewer than half (46%) say they would be comfortable speaking to their GP about accessing abortion. 

60% of adults think the government should be doing more to make abortion services available and accessible across Northern Ireland. 

“The poll results are shocking but not completely surprising. The Government has been dragging its heels on getting abortion services up and running for three years. No wonder people are left confused and unaware of their rights,” Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland deputy director Gráinne Teggart said. 

“Half the population doesn’t realise abortion is now lawful and worryingly few know how to access services. This is a huge failure by the Government, and their delays are having a harmful impact on those in need of this healthcare on a daily basis,” Teggart said. 

“The law is meaningless if people don’t have access to abortion in practice. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must set up abortion services and launch an information campaign without delay.”

Celebrities – including Bronagh Waugh, Olivia Colman, Vick Hope and Juliet Stevenson – have joined medical bodies, service providers and human rights organisations in signing an open letter organised by Amnesty International UK calling on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton Harris to urgently set up commissioned services.

The poll, conducted by Opinium on behalf of Amnesty International UK, surveyed 1,004 adults in Northern Ireland between 12 and 17 October.

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