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Conscience Magazine

Northern Ireland Publishes New Abortion Guidelines

By Catholics for Choice August 22, 2016

Northern Ireland released updated abortion guidelines that offer a new interpretation of existing law, the BBC reported in March. Dr. Fiona Bloomer from Ulster University pointed to the new mention of the abortion pill in the guidelines. “It [the guidelines] acknowledges that if a woman presents in hospital having taken the abortion pill the symptoms are the same as if she had a natural miscarriage,” she said, referring to doctors’ inability to discern if a woman has taken pills to cause an abortion. “It’s almost like a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach.”

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Liam Gibson of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said that the revision “will have the opposite effect and make doctors much more conscious about their obligations not to consent to requests for abortion.”

Sarah Ewart, who spoke out about having to travel to England for an abortion after diagnosis of a fatal fetal abnormality, told the Telegraph that the new rules wouldn’t help women in similar situations. “All the guidance in the world cannot change Northern Ireland’s 19th-century law and that is what is needed,” Ewart said.

Catholics for Choice

was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.