The politics of termination of pregnancy in
University of Ulster, UK
Policy and politics in relation to termination of pregnancy (TOP)
remain mired in issues of religiosity, morality and class
everywhere in the world but perhaps nowhere more so than in the
one part of the UK where TOP remains illegal – Northern Ireland.
There, the Health Minister is a creationist and avowed ‘pro-life’
advocate who has failed to comply with a court ruling to clarify
for doctors when it is legal to perform a TOP.
Control over TOP was not devolved to Scotland or Wales,
despite Scotland having the same control over matters of criminal
justice as the NI Assembly. Instead, it was admitted in
Westminster that in relation to TOP, the UK government was
making ‘….a distinction between Northern Ireland and the rest of
the United Kingdom for a multiplicity of pressing political and
other reasons’. As a result, women in NI are not guaranteed even
life-saving TOPs, still less ‘social’ ones.
The ‘multiplicity of pressing political and other reasons’ which
led to TOP being a devolved issue has much to do with British
politicians needing the votes of the fundamentalist Democratic
Unionist Party to pass controversial measures, and nothing to do
with the social or health needs of women in Northern Ireland.
This paper looks at the politics of TOP in NI and how religious
fundamentalism has inﬂuenced the development of policy in
relation to TOP in this part of the United Kingdom.