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RCOG/FSRH welcome ‘historic vote’ to reform the abortion law in Northern Ireland

News 18 July 2019

Today, the UK Parliament has voted to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare strongly welcome the result of the vote, which shows both Houses of Parliament support the right of women and girls in Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion care.

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act requires the Government to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive.

Professor Lesley Regan, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said:

“We are absolutely delighted that Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to support the fundamental rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland to access abortion services.

“This is a truly historic day for women’s rights in Northern Ireland – a country which has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world – and will pave the way toward decriminalisation of abortion.

“The UK has finally addressed the historic wrong that has deprived the women and girls of Northern Ireland access to safe compassionate healthcare.

“It is now essential that the ambitions of this Act are implemented as soon as possible to ensure that healthcare professionals can provide abortion services - an essential aspect of women’s health, without any fear of prosecution.”

“We will work with the government and partner organisations so that women can access these services in March 2020.”


Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“The vote in Parliament today is a milestone to secure women’s reproductive health and rights in the UK.

“Because of an outdated legislative framework, hundreds of women resident in Northern Ireland have to endure long journeys to other parts of the UK, sometimes in pain, to access abortion care. Others resort to illegal purchase of abortion medication, risking life imprisonment.

“There is evidence that the law in Northern Ireland conflicts with doctors’ duty of care and confidentiality towards their patients. Healthcare professionals in Northern Ireland practice in fear of criminal sanctions, without always being able to provide clinically relevant information or make referrals to services in other jurisdictions. This hampers the provision of optimal care and puts patient safety at risk.

“This situation is untenable, and the vote in Parliament today has the power to change that. It is imperative that this is implemented without delay.”

Note to Editors

For media enquiries please contact the RCOG press office on +44 (0)20 7045 6773 or email

Last week, the RCOG welcomed MPs vote in favour of legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

In 2017, the RCOG was the first Royal Medical College to back decriminalisation of abortion in the UK, and the FSRH Council voted unanimously to pass a new position statement calling for the decriminalisation of abortion care in the UK.

About the RCOG
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is a medical charity that champions the provision of high quality women’s healthcare in the UK and beyond. It is dedicated to encouraging the study and advancing the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology. It does this through postgraduate medical education and training and the publication of clinical guidelines and reports on aspects of the specialty and service provision.

About the FSRH
The FSRH is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ. For more information please visit: