It has been more than a decade since FPA successfully challenged the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the High Court over its refusal to issue guidance around abortion law to health professionals.
Countless women and families have been affected by the subsequent delays and documents being published and withdrawn; staff have been working in fear and confusion and women have been refused support and left in a state of crisis.
Over the weekend, the Department published updated guidance.
Crucially it focuses on women and the support they need before, during and after seeking a termination.
FPA has provided a pregnancy choices and post-abortion counselling service for more than 20 years, based on the principle of giving women the time and space to talk about how they feel and discuss their options in a nondirective, unbiased way.
Now we have this document, the Department must ensure the training needs identified in the guidance are implemented in every region, and clear and consistent working practices are put in place.
Although the guidance does reiterate that women’s best interests should be considered if they are seeking medical help after buying abortion pills online, frankly they should never have been put in that position in the first place.
This guidance was never going to change the law but we will continue to campaign for women’s right to access abortion services, including where there has been a fatal fetal abnormality diagnosis or pregnancy as a result of rape or incest.
Mark Breslin, sexual health charity FPA’s Director of Northern Ireland