Stormont legalises abortion and same-sex marriage

Cheryl Sanders
October 22, 2019

Northern Ireland is set to drop its long-standing ban on almost all abortions and permit same-sex marriages, opening the door to revolutionary social changes that overturn laws dating back more than 100 years.

The DUP, which propped up Prime Minister Theresa May's government, made a final effort to prevent the law changing on Monday, after a petition triggered a recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly - the devolved regional legislature which has not sat for nearly three years following the collapse of its cross-community power-sharing executive.

The new legislation, which also legalises same-sex marriage, was introduced by MPs in Westminster.

Sky correspondent Katerina Vittozzi reports.

The plans are opposed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which organised a petition to recall the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Before now, abortion has been illegal in Northern Ireland unless there is a risk to a woman's life.

Full abortion services are expected to be in place in Northern Ireland by March 31.

However, the gathering will not prevent the new laws coming into force as the MLAs involved do not have the power to appoint a new executive. But despite opinion polls showing most in the region in favour, previous attempts to follow the Irish Republic in legalising it have been blocked by the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), using a special veto meant to prevent discrimination towards one community over another. Sinn Fein refused to participate and after one hour the legislature adjourned.

The Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has also described the meeting as a "cynical move" that "raises hopes of pro-life people only to dash them & creates distress for many women & for LGBTQ people planning to marry".

"We will have to take a look at all of our legal options", she added.

MPs at Westminster voted to decriminalise both - unless a new power-sharing government is in place at Stormont by the end of today.

"This will never undo my experience but has given a goal to my pain and I am relieved that no one will now have to go through what I did", said Topley, who at 4-1/2 months pregnant was told that her baby would not survive but had to carry on against her wishes until she went into labour at 35 weeks and the baby girl's heart stopped.

Once the 19th-century laws that criminalise abortion lapse at midnight, the Government will assume responsibility for introducing new regulations to provide greater access to terminations in the region by next April. With immediate effect from tomorrow, October 22, abortion will be decriminalised, meaning that investigations and prosecutions now under way against women seeking access to abortion services will not proceed.

Sarah Ewart, who won a court challenge over the law earlier this month, called the change "monumental".

Other reports by iNewsToday