Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019

Same-sex marriage and abortion now legal in Northern Ireland for first time

Pro-choice campaigners in Northern Ireland have celebrated “an historic moment”, as abortion and same-sex marriage become legal for the first time. 

Grainne Teggert, from Amnesty UK, told Sky News: “It marks the end of inequality both for same sex couples who have long wanted to marry the person they love, and also for women who have been suffering at the hands of our abortion ban.

“And it brings Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK”.

The new laws are a result of amendments put forward in Westminster, by backbench Labour MPs, this summer.

Blocking the changes would have required Northern Ireland’s currently-defunct devolved government to have started operating again.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) tried to table a parliament sitting on Monday, the first in more than two-and-half years, but opposition parties did not attend.

Arlene Foster, DUP leader, called it a “sad day” with regards to the changes to the abortion law, which is seen in Northern Ireland as the most contentious of the two topics.

“I know some people will seek to celebrate and I would say to those people think of those of us who are sad today and who believe that this is an affront to human dignity and to human life,” she said.

Previously, women in Northern Ireland could only legally access an abortion when the pregnancy would cause a long-term and serious risk to the mother’s physical or mental health.

It meant that women with non-viable pregnancies, or who had become pregnant as a result of incest or rape, either had to carry the pregnancy to term or risk criminal prosecution by travelling overseas for an abortion, buying abortion pills online or by going to a potentially unsafe, illegal clinic at home.

It was also illegal for doctors to advise women where and how they could access abortion services.

Sarah Ewart had to travel to England for a termination after being told that her baby would not survive after birth.

She told Sky News: “To be sent away to somewhere where no-one knew me, or my medical history was a very scary experience.

“I have no grave to visit, no ashes at home of my little girl. Hopefully these changes will mean that no one else will have to experience that, because they’ll be able to access medical services at home.”

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