Northern Ireland abortion buffer zones ruling is a huge win for reproductive rights

Jade Biggs
Thu, 8 December 2022

Lawmakers in Northern Ireland can now create buffer zones around abortion clinics, following a ruling from the UK's Supreme Court. The decision means that Northern Ireland is the first part of the UK to bring in legislation on abortion clinic buffer zones – although this was rolled out on a local council level in England and Wales earlier this year.

The Supreme Court's unanimous decision allows the Northern Ireland assembly to proceed with introducing safe access zones to protect abortion clinic users and staff. The move is part of the Assembly's new Abortion Services Bill, which will criminalise those who enter abortion clinic buffer zones with the intention of influencing attendees.


N. Ireland – Supreme Court says bill to ban anti-abortion protests at clinics is lawful

Dec 7, 2022
By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI political correspondent

A bill to ban anti-abortion protests at Northern Ireland health clinics does not "disproportionately interfere" with protesters' rights, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Former assembly member Clare Bailey developed the bill to set up so-called safe access zones outside clinics where abortions are carried out.  

It was voted through the assembly in March by a majority of parties. It was delayed from becoming law after the attorney general intervened.


UK government commissions abortion services in Northern Ireland

5 DEC 2022
Irish Legal News
The UK government has formally commissioned abortion services in Northern Ireland after the continued failure of the devolved Department of Health to do so.

Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to the Department following the UK government’s announcement in October that it would step in to ensure that access to safe high-quality abortion and post-abortion care is available.


Relief and sorrow: Reactions after UK government moves on abortion capacity in Northern Ireland

Campaigners and the Catholic Church have given their reactions after the UK government instructed the NI Department of Health to move ahead with providing abortion services in all Trusts across the north of Ireland.

By Brendan McDaid
Dec 5, 2022

The Department of Health said it “acknowledges the legal requirements placed on it by the Secretary of State and has been working closely with the Northern Ireland Office on the planned commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland.”

The legal instruction on commissioning and the ring fencing of funding will mean that HSC Trusts will have the “necessary resources to ensure a full range of abortion services will be available in NI, including putting in place the necessary staffing and training required” the statement issued said.


Full abortion services may not be ready in six months, doctor says

4 Dec 2022

A doctor has said she does not think abortion services will by fully developed in Northern Ireland within the next six months.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris announced on Friday he had written to the Department of Health to instruct them to formally commission abortion services in the region.

While Mr Heaton-Harris said he anticipated services becoming available in the coming months, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Laura McLaughlin, who co-founded Doctors For Choice NI, a group which has campaigned for the provision of abortion services, said there were a lot of pathways which had to be established.


Abortion: Legal challenge begins over NI abortion law

Nov 8, 2022
By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI political correspondent

A challenge to the government's legal authority to establish abortion services in Northern Ireland is under way in the Court of Appeal.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Spuc) argues it should be for Stormont politicians to decide on the issue.

In February, the High Court rejected its challenge, upholding steps taken by former NI Secretary Brandon Lewis.


UK government to fund abortion services in Northern Ireland

Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is commissioning state-funded abortion services across Northern Ireland, after the region fails to provide support for women

October 25, 2022

The U.K. parliament decriminalised abortion in Northern Ireland in 2019, and now in 2022, they have begun funding these procedures for women and girls.

This move demonstrates how the Democratic Unionists have lost a key political standpoint topic in local government, where the support for abortion rights defies many of the Protestant evangelical beliefs of Northern Ireland, which formerly kept abortion illegal.


My Childhood Under Northern Ireland’s Abortion Ban

Where do its consequences begin and end?

By Rachel Connolly
Oct 6, 2022

There is a leaflet I remember reading compulsively when I was in primary school. I would have been 8 or 9 years old and got it from one of the booths set up by anti-choice protesters who would often gather in town. The text was neon pink and printed on silky black paper, design choices that made the content seem sensational, even pornographic. Across one corner there was an image of a tiny human body blurred by a glowing outline. The religious imagery I grew up with was full of saints portrayed similarly.

That leaflet lived in my pocket for a while. I unfolded and refolded it until the shininess faded and it was quartered with thick, white veins. I only vaguely remember what it said, the usual gory myths about infertility and vacuums and the capacity a fetus has to feel pain, always using the word baby instead of fetus. The feelings it evoked I recall much more clearly: revulsion, shock, and fascination.


Abortion: ‘No need’ to amend NI protest bill, Supreme Court told

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News
July 20, 2022

There is "no necessity" to amend a bill that would ban anti-abortion protests at health settings in Northern Ireland, the Supreme Court has heard.

Passed at Stormont in March, the legislation is being challenged by Northern Ireland's Attorney General.

She has asked the court to decide if it
"disproportionately interferes" with the rights of anti-abortion


Northern Ireland bill banning some anti-abortion protests challenged

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI political correspondent
July 19, 2022

Legislation to ban anti-abortion protests at health settings in Northern Ireland will not "go back to square one", the Supreme Court has been told.

In March, the Stormont Assembly voted for a bill to place "buffer zones" outside abortion clinics.

It is being challenged by NI's attorney general, Dame Brenda King.