Today represents a huge victory for the tireless campaigners who have spent years fighting for the rights of women in Northern Ireland, including our courageous activists.
At midnight, the near-blanket ban on abortion will come to an end and women will no longer face prosecution for accessing this basic form of reproductive healthcare. As the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, and as a woman who has had an abortion myself, I would like to add my voice to those celebrating this victory.
The fact that women in Northern Ireland have been denied their rights for so long is shameful, as is the fact that the DUP returned to Stormont in a symbolic attempt to block this legislation. To those currently negotiating with them in Westminster, this should serve as an important reminder of exactly what the DUP stands for.
When the legislation takes effect at midnight, this country will be a step closer towards the full decriminalisation of abortion. However, women all over the UK still face restrictions including legal barriers to accessing abortions.
Women in England, Scotland and Wales still have to prove their pregnancy involves a bigger risk to their physical or mental health than terminating it. They still have to ask for permission from two doctors to end their pregnancy, and they still risk prosecution. While women in Northern Ireland no longer face prosecution, they will have no abortion services until new regulations are in place by April 2020 or until power sharing resumes in Stormont. That means women have to travel abroad to actually have an abortion.The
Women’s Equality Party will continue to campaign until abortions are treated as medical procedures and are freely available, safe and legal in every nation of the UK.
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