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.
All that could be about to change as on Tuesday, after years of public activism, MPs at Westminster have voted overwhelmingly to extend same-sex marriage and abortion rights to Northern Ireland.
They voted by 383 to 73, a majority of 310, to introduce same-sex marriage by October 21st unless power-sharing talks lead to the restoration of the Assembly and the Executive before then.
"A violation of the human rights of women"
They voted by 332 to 99, a majority of 233, to implement a United Nations report that said the lack of abortion rights was a "violation of the human rights of women in Northern Ireland." Labour MP Stella Creasy has long worked to have this law changed.
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Northern Ireland minister John Penrose said the government would act on both votes.
Thank you to everyone who today stood up for equality in Northern Ireland - whether for same sex marriage or abortion, today we have said everyone in the UK deserves to be treated as an equal. There’s a road to go yet but today a big step forward #TheNorthISNext #LoveEquality
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) July 9, 2019
"This House has failed LGBT people in Northern Ireland before. It failed a generation of people in Northern Ireland by not decriminalising homosexuality and condemned them to discrimination, to abuse and to living in fear many years after that stopped being the case in the rest of the UK.
"It failed people in Northern Ireland by not extending same-sex marriage when it became the law here, making people in NI less valued than the rest of us. Tonight we have a chance to do the right thing," said Conor McGinn, who tabled the marriage equality amendment.
MPs at Westminster have voted overwhelmingly to extend same-sex marriage and abortion rights to Northern Ireland.
— Denis Staunton (@denisstaunton) July 9, 2019
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is not legal.
Main photograph: Unsplash
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