Did Kezia Dugdale mislead Parliament on abortion in Northern Ireland?
The former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told Parliament on Thursday that ‘In Northern Ireland, some women have received longer jail sentences for having had an abortion than were given to the men who raped them in the first place.’
The claim was made during First Minister’s Questions and in relation to an earlier UK Supreme Court decision which declared that some of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
I can find no record of any woman ever being imprisoned for having an abortion in Northern Ireland. If Kezia Dugdale is aware of such cases perhaps she might disclose them. Only one woman is known to have been convicted of the offence of procuring her own abortion, a conviction which resulted in a suspended sentence. Not imprisonment.
Rape is an extremely serious matter. Soo too is abortion. There is considerable emotion involved around abortion and our information needs to be accurate if we are going to have a fair and honest debate about it. This is especially important in public forums like the Scottish Parliament where it is important that elected members are extremely wary of making misleading claims.