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Ethics – Abortion in Northern Ireland

January 2017

Amnesty International has presented a petition of 45,000 signatures to the Northern Ireland Assembly, via Green Party deputy leader Claire Bailey.

In the petition, Amnesty has called for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, which would significantly alter the current legislation and also put it way beyond British abortion laws.

This petition calls for major changes to Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. To sign the petition however, there was no need to register to an address in Northern Ireland, so, according to Christian concern CARE, it is possible many of the people claiming support for the changes to the law do not even live in Northern Ireland.  There were also no other checks in place to ensure that people could only sign the petition once, and under their own name.

Mark Baillie, Northern Ireland policy officer for CARE, said: ‘This petition is less than robust. Because the petition does not ask you for an address or postcode, it makes it possible for people to sign the petition more than once under a fake name, and, more worryingly, there is no requirement for the signature to be from Northern Ireland.

‘This obviously causes significant problems, as Amnesty is attempting to persuade members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to overhaul the current laws on abortion in Northern Ireland.

‘Assembly members should be aware of the fact that there is no way to verify that the 45,000 names are indeed legitimate or have any connection to Northern Ireland. This raises significant questions about the petition system in Northern Ireland’.

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