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Image / Editorial

‘Historic day’: NI Abortion & Equal Marriage Legislation passes final stage


by Jennifer McShane
22nd Jul 2019
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Landmark legislation has passed the final stage and it will now become law.


The British parliament has voted to force the government to liberalise access to abortion and allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland if devolution is not restored.

The landmark legislation passed through its final stage at Westminster on Monday afternoon; the abortion and equal marriage commitments in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill will now become law by 21st October this year, unless the Northern Ireland Executive has been re-established by that date.

Related: MPs vote to extend abortion rights and same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland

Currently, in Northern Ireland, any termination of a pregnancy is illegal, with any person found to have broken it risking life imprisonment.

 

Extenuating circumstances are only granted in the case that a woman’s mental or physical health is deemed at risk but this is rarely exercised – according to statistics, in 2016/17, only 13 legal abortions were carried out in the entire country.

“Love wins. Today that message rang out from Westminster,” LGBT+ rights campaigner John O’Doherty told the Irish Independent.

“Being part of this historic campaign over the last eight years is the most important and affirming thing I have ever done — besides marrying my husband.”

The deadline for the new same-sex marriage law to come into force is January 2020, and full abortion law reform must be implemented by March 2020.

Abortion will be decriminalised and women currently facing criminal trial will have their prosecutions dropped from 22 October this year.

Amnesty International Northern Ireland director Patrick Corrigan said it was a historic day for human rights.

“Future generations in Northern Ireland will no longer have to suffer inequality in the way so many have had to endure in the past.”

Main photograph: Pexels


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