New abortion guidance in Northern Ireland places greater emphasis on women’s health

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 30 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1814
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

New official abortion guidelines have been issued for health professionals in Northern Ireland, where the law has been one of the strictest in Europe.1

The new guidance offers a more liberal interpretation of the law than earlier draft guidelines, which never came into force but had a chilling effect on doctors. The number of NHS abortions in Northern Ireland, already low at 51 in 2012-13, fell to only 16 in 2014-15.2

Doctors have been calling for years for clear guidance on when abortions are covered by the Northern Ireland law, which permits terminations only when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or serious, long lasting damage to her mental or physical health.3

England, Wales, and Scotland are covered by the Abortion Act 1967, which …

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