WEP calls out government’s double standards on sexual and reproductive health rights

Last week, you may have seen that WEP Lewisham have been supporting a mother and daughter from Northern Ireland in their legal struggle to obtain equal rights for women from NI seeking abortion on the NHS. * Although Stella Creasy’s recent amendment secured a temporary sticking plaster, it is still the case that in the UK not even all women are equal under the law or able to access the NHS.

Women's Equality Party

Today the Women’s Equality Party called out the UK government’s double standards as Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel hosted a Family Planning Summit with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Whilst Patel reaffirmed her government’s commitment to sexual and reproductive health rights overseas, the WEP highlighted the government’s refusal to extend that same commitment to reproductive health rights for Northern Irish women and girls on UK shores.

Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker explained: “Until full access to sexual and reproductive health rights is a reality for women in every nation of the UK, there will be a glaring double standard in our government’s approach. Whilst we welcome unreservedly the UK’s leadership on family planning on the world stage, it is vital that these same politicians do not abandon their commitments to uphold the human rights of women on these shores.”

“Last week our UK and national governments committed to funding abortion services for Northern Irish women in England, Wales and Scotland — but this must be a first step and not the end of the road for abortion reform. Women are still criminalised and denied access to fundamental reproductive health rights, and the UK government is shirking its responsibility to uphold human rights in every part of the UK.”

An estimated 1000 Northern Irish women travel to England each year to access abortion services, but that is only the tip of the iceberg; many women are unable to make the journey due to financial constraints, lack of information or because of abusive partners.

Walker continued, “the Secretary of State for International Development made a clear connection today between cyclical poverty and reproductive health rights. The government must now extend this logic and compassion to the Northern Irish women who cannot afford to travel to other parts of the UK to access termination services, and are forced to carry crisis pregnancies to term.”

“Priti Patel today said that giving women and girls the chance to own their bodies, means they can own their future. It is time to lead by example and make this a truly global commitment.”

Editors’ notes

The Women’s Equality Party considers any denial of reproductive rights to be an act of violence and will always oppose any attempt to limit access to contraception, termination or medical support during pregnancy.

Northern Ireland has the strongest criminal penalty for abortion of any country in Europe. Terminations are only permitted where there is a direct threat to the life of the mother if the pregnancy continues, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health. Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are still not seen as circumstances that permit the procedure.

The Women’s Equality Party was established two years ago to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women’s health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.

The Party currently has 65,000 members and registered supporters. It aims to put equality for women at the top of the national political agenda by being an electoral force that also works with other political parties; in addition to party membership it also offers joint memberships to members of other political parties.

Press enquiries to Catherine Riley, Head of Communications (catherine.riley@womensequality.org.uk/+447764 752 731).

 Press at Women’s Equality Party


  • The crowd justice campaign to enable A and B’s legal team to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights runs until 8am on 27th July. Please help if you can.

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