MPs to pressure May on abortion in Northern Ireland

MP’s plan to introduce a bill this Tuesday which could decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Diana Johnson and members from five other parties will put pressure on Theresa May to repeal the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act which enforced maximum life imprisonment on any woman who sought an abortion.

The bill, if passed, will ensure no woman from the UK will risk a life sentence for ending her own pregnancy. The 1967 Abortion Act did not extend to Northern Ireland and because of this, women have had to make journeys to England, Wales and Scotland to access essential medical treatment.

A recent Amnesty International poll found that 72% of Northern Irish people support a change in the abortion law- specifically surrounding rape and incest cases. According to the campaign #nowforNI, two UN committees have made recommendations to the UK government, that the current abortion laws in Northern Ireland contravenes with their responsibilities under human rights conventions.


Data from Amnesty International UK poll 2016, Milward Brown. Image by Sorcha Gilheany

The bill on Tuesday 23 October will force the UK government into action and will see the first vote on abortion in Northern Ireland since the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal the ban on abortion in May. The bill has cross-party support from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Green party and Plaid Cymru.

Johnson told the Guardian, “I want to keep up the pressure on the government to allow MPs to have a proper vote”, and hopes the bill will strong-arm May into acting. This issue is a minefield for May with Brexit on the horizons and of course her last remaining supporters coming from the notoriously anti-abortion DUP.

The #nowforNI campaign is asking people to email their local MPs asking them to support the bill and the campaign. To find out more about what happens in the campaign, follow #nowforNI on Twitter.

To keep updated on this story follow @TheVoiceofLond1



Words by: Sorcha Gilheany

Subbing by: Fiona Patterson

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