Politicians call for reform of abortion in North

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Politicians call for reform of abortion in North


Campaign group Solidarity with Repeal holding a rally last weekend calling for abortion rights outside Belfast City Hall. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Campaign group Solidarity with Repeal holding a rally last weekend calling for abortion rights outside Belfast City Hall. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

More than 170 politicians from across the spectrum, both here and in the UK, have called on the British Government to reform Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

The group, including TDs and Senators, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs and peers and Stormont Assembly members said it was a matter of protecting women’s human rights and honouring the Good Friday Agreement.

According to the group, nearly 1,000 women and girls had to travel to Britain for safe terminations in 2017, while others took illegal abortion drugs at home.

Calls for the North’s abortion laws to be reformed have intensified after the referendum here resoundingly backed liberalising legislation here.

Downing Street has previously said this is a devolved issue. However, the absence of a power-sharing agreement at Stormont has placed pressure on Westminster to act.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s allies in the DUP, on whom she relies for her Commons majority, are staunchly opposed to relaxing the abortion laws.

The group of legislators urged the UK Government to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, which make it a crime for a woman to cause her own abortion in Northern Ireland.

They wrote: “This is the first and critical step to ending the treatment of British and Irish women living in Northern Ireland as second-class citizens, who do not enjoy the same access to healthcare as their counterparts do across these islands.”

Sinn Féin leaders Michelle O’Neil and Mary Lou McDonald signed the letter, along with Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, who chaired the Oireachtas committee which recommended changing the law in the Republic.

Irish Independent

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