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Impact Lead: Dr Fiona Bloomer

Underpinning research

Dr Bloomer’s research has focused on three specific areas of reproductive health: abortion policy; abortion as a workplace issue and female genital mutilation (FGM).

  • In terms of abortion policy, Dr Bloomer’s research on the political discourse in Northern Ireland has identified the influence of religiosity in debates and led to new, groundbreaking engagement with faith leaders on the issue of being pro-choice and a person of faith.
  • Emerging findings from a unique study in Ireland North and South has uncovered evidence of abortion being a workplace issue, this includes evidence that abortion stigma contributes to isolation and lack of disclosure; and that women are returning to work too quickly after having an abortion as they are unable to obtain sick pay / sick leave.  To date no comparable studies worldwide have been identified.  It is likely therefore that the findings of this study will garner significant attention when published (autumn 2017).
  • A scoping study on FGM in Northern Ireland has uncovered gaps in knowledge, data and service provision.  A failure to provide an implementation plan for multi-agency guidelines has contributed to a lack of progress on policy implementation, absence of clear direction and lack of engagement with affected communities.

Partners, initiatives, impact

Dr Bloomer has developed strategic collaborations with civil society, the media, and public officials:

  • Alliance for Choice is the leading organisation campaigning for reform of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland. Dr Bloomer has advised the organisation on research matters since 2010.  Her research has been used to inform strategic planning, campaigning activities and in responses made by the organisation to consultation responses (e.g. Wells amendment, 2016).
  • Dr Bloomer has led on engagement with faith leaders on abortion policy.  Two public events explored issues of faith and abortion, findings were also presented at a knowledge exchange event at the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • Dr Bloomer has been commissioned by a partnership of Trade Unions (UNITE the Union, Unison, Mandate, the CWU Ireland and the GMB) to explore abortion as a workplace issue.  This follows Dr Bloomer advising Unite the Union on abortion policy matters since 2010.
  • The Family Planning Association are the leading sexual health charity in the UK.  Dr Bloomer has worked closely with their Northern Ireland office on abortion policy. This includes being expert witness to a confidential international inquiry into abortion access in Northern Ireland [public report expected December 2017].  Her research has also been cited in responses made by the organisation to consultation responses. This includes FPA submission to the Women & Equalities Committee enquiry into plans to achieve SDG5.
  • A partnership with the African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI) has to date resulted in a scoping study on FGM in NI, further developments are expected in Autumn 2017. Emerging findings from the scoping study have informed plans for the Safeguarding Board (Northern Ireland). [note FB to get evidence of this]
  • Dr Bloomer is a founding member of the Reproductive Health Law and Policy Advisory Group, a joint initiative between at Queen’s University Belfast and Manchester Metropolitan University and Ulster University. Team members have extensive research backgrounds in the area of law and policy pertaining to issues of reproductive health. The Advisory Group has been established to provide expertise and knowledge on policy and legal matters related to reproductive health; to facilitate discussions and knowledge transfer between academics, policy and lawmakers, health professionals and stakeholder groups; to provide advice on legal and policy reform. Outputs have included roundtable events, with politicians and health professionals and briefing papers. This has resulted in private meetings with politicians to discuss abortion law reform.
  • Dr Bloomer has a strong media profile and provides expert commentary on abortion policy to regional and national media outlets.