Abortion reform

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#TrustUs was a student-led campaign for free, safe, legal and local abortion rights in Northern Ireland.


We believe that access to abortion is a human right and that the bodily autonomy of every pregnant person should be respected. NUS-USI called on the Westminster parliament to legislate for free, safe, legal and local abortion services in Northern Ireland.


We campaigned for the decriminalisation of abortion in the North of Ireland and NOT the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act. We did NOT want a referendum on abortion in Northern Ireland.


We asked that the law which criminalised abortion in Northern Ireland (the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act) be reformed by the ordinary legislative process in the Northern Ireland Assembly or the UK Parliament under direct rule.


Why did we call for change?


Abortion was only available in Northern Ireland where there was a risk to the life or long term mental or physical health of the pregnant person, which excluded cases where there is a fatal foetal abnormality or a pregnancy resulting from sexual crime. In most circumstances, abortion was a criminal offence punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act (OAPA).


Keeping abortion illegal in Northern Ireland did not stop Northern Irish/Irish people in the North of Ireland from having abortions, it just made abortion less safe and more difficult to access. At least three people had to travel or take safe but illegal abortion pills in the North of Ireland every single day.


The criminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland deterred people from accessing aftercare, for fear of being reported to the PSNI if they disclosed that they induced an abortion with medication. In 2015, 1,438 women and pregnant people in NI purchased abortion pills online from just one provider (Women on Web).


In February 2018 CEDAW urged the UK government to act urgently to reform the abortion law in Northern Ireland as the law constituted a grave violation of human rights. Polls and surveys consistently demonstrated that a majority of people in Northern Ireland, regardless of their party-political affiliation, supported abortion reform.


Background to the campaign


NUS-USI launched a #HometoV8te campaign alongside NUS’ Women’s campaign, to financially assist Irish students studying in the UK to travel home to vote in the referendum on the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution, in solidarity with our sister union USI and Students for Ch8ice.


The #TrustUs campaign was inspired by the Home to V8te campaign and Alliance for Choice’s #AbortionRightsNI campaign.


What we achieved


On 21 October 2019, legislation to decriminalise abortion and legalise same-sex marriage in NI came into effect, under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. The student movement in NI celebrated the milestone moment, following decades of student-led activism. The legislation was passed at Westminster after cross-party talks to reinstate power-sharing at Stormont failed to yield an executive.


The regulations came into effect in March 2020.

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