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Womens’ marches show the mood to relax abortion laws in Northern Ireland

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Pressure is growing on politicians for reform of draconian abortion law in Northern Ireland, reports Sarah Bates
Issue 2608
Protesters for womens rights in Belfast last Sunday
Protesters for women’s rights in Belfast last Sunday – demanding abortion law reform in Northern Ireland (Pic: Stacey Bowman/Twitter)

Over 1,000 people marched in Belfast last Sunday to commemorate 100 years since some British women won the right to vote.

Thousands also marched in London, Edinburgh and Cardiff. Many wore the suffragette colours of green, white and purple.

Following Ireland’s historic vote to relax its abortion laws, the demand for abortion reform was a central part of Sunday’s mobilisation.

Activists came from all over Ireland to be part of Belfast’s protest.

Sarah Daly from Galway for Choice said “We repealed the eighth amendment and we want to support our sisters in the north.

“Things have to change here, sooner rather than later.”

The British 1967 Abortion Act was never extended to Northern Ireland, so the law that governs abortion is the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861.

Abortions are only allowed if a woman’s health is deemed to be at serious risk.

A human rights organisation lost an appeal in the Supreme Court last week over the legality of Northern Ireland’s abortion law.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) said that abortion laws mean women suffer “inhuman and degrading” treatment resulting in “physical and mental torture”.

They argued this violated human rights laws. The court said the NIHRC didn’t have the right to bring the case to the Supreme Court.


But a majority of judges said that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are “deeply unsatisfactory”.

There is mounting pressure on Theresa May to extend the 1967 Act. May is scared to intervene because the Democratic Unionist Party—which is propping up her government—is anti-choice.

Labour MP Stella Creasy raised a debate in parliament on Tuesday of last week to repeal the sections of the Act that legislate on abortion.

Over 100 protested outside parliament to demand action now.

During the debate Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley reaffirmed May’s position of inaction.

Bradley said, “It would not be appropriate for Westminster to seek to impose its will.

“It is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland.” But activists want the 1967 Act to be extended now.

Danielle Roberts, from the Northern Irish Alliance for Choice campaign said, “We don’t need a referendum and we don’t want one.

“Public support has changed and it’s the politicians who are out of step.”

Pressure must be kept on Theresa May and the Tories. They should extend the 1967 Act—as should have been done 51 years ago.

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