Northern Ireland Is Still In Dire Need Of Abortion Reform

Nick Levine

Today, the people of Ireland are still processing their historic decision to repeal the 8th and overturn the country's abortion ban. Now that all ballots have been counted, we know that Ireland voted 66.4% to 33.6% in favour of abortion reform - a veritable landslide.

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed the referendum result as "a quiet revolution" and a great act of democracy". He's said he plans to have the new law, which would provide for abortion on request up to the 12th week of pregnancy, enacted before 2018 is out.

While Ireland celebrates, politicians and campaigners are drawing attention to the fact that Northern Ireland's incredibly strict abortion laws are now out of step with both the rest of the UK, and the rest of the island of Ireland.

Under the draconian current law, abortions are only legal in Northern Ireland if the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. Though women in Northern Ireland have had the right to access free abortion treatment in mainland Britain since June 2017, they still have to incur the cost and emotional trauma of travelling across the Irish Sea to have the procedure - as so many Irish women have done over the years.

Labour MP Stella Creasy is among the many pro-choice campaigners sharing a simple and effective infographic which states: "2.5m Irish women have won the right to choice. Don't leave 1m women in Northern Ireland behind."

Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister for Women and Equalities, has also voiced her support for abortion reform in Northern Ireland.

“It must not be forgotten that us women in Northern Ireland are still persecuted by a Victorian-era abortion ban,” Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland's Amnesty International campaign manager said in a statement yesterday.

“It’s hypocritical, degrading and insulting to Northern Irish women that we are forced to travel for vital healthcare services but cannot access them at home. We cannot be left behind in a corner of the UK and on the island of Ireland as second-class citizens.”

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