Historic vote could legalize abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Cheryl Sanders
July 11, 2019

People in Northern Ireland may soon have fair access to abortion and same-sex marriage, after MPs voted in Westminster yesterday to extend freedoms already bestowed on England, Scotland and Wales.

British lawmakers have voted to extend same-sex marriage and access to abortions in Northern Ireland in a move that activists are celebrating after decades of campaigning.

Archbishop Eamon Martin joined Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster and Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor in expressing deep concern over the proposed amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill which are aimed at legalising abortion in Northern Ireland.

Both proposals came in the form of amendments to a technical bill on the governance of Northern Ireland - deemed necessary while the region remains without a devolved government.

McGinn continued: "I hope to see the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly restored and working by 21st October, so that they can take the decision to introduce equal marriage".

But it does not automatically change the law - the caveat is that it can only happen if Stormont hasn't been restored by 21 October.

Labour's Conor McGinn, who is originally from Armagh, brought forward the proposal to legalise same-sex marriage whilst his Labour colleague Stella Creasy put forward the abortion amendment.

But Mr McGinn rejected that argument, saying that in the absence of Stormont it was right to extend the equality law throughout the UK.

He said: "I didn't vote against same sex marriage or abortion, I voted against this parliament voting on such a focused set of issues when there are so many other issues that are not being dealt with".

However, the changes will not come into effect if the two parties that share power in Belfast, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, can reach agreement in the coming months.

The DUP voted against both amendments but two of its MPs - Sir Jeffrey and Gavin Robinson - were tellers, meaning they did not vote.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday evening, Nationalist MP Gavin Newlands had said it was "a long-held principle that we on the SNP benches do not vote on matters devolved to other parts of the United Kingdom. we are not blind to the circumstances in Northern Ireland, but we intend to stick to that principle".

Love Equality Northern Ireland, a group which had long campaigned in favour of the new legislation, took to Twitter to praise the outcome of today's vote.

Women in Northern Ireland have so far been subject to one of the strictest abortion bans in the world, and terminating a pregnancy can result in life imprisonment.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Prime Minister Theresa May abstained.

However, Peter Lynas, the Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance, said that it was a "deeply sad day".

Other reports by iNewsToday