Government under pressure over Northern Ireland abortion law as 170 politicians sign letter
The Government is under increasing pressure to reform Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws after 170 politicians from across the UK and Ireland signed a letter demanding change.
The letter – published in the Sunday Times – argues against the Government’s position that the issue is devolved and should be decided on by Northern Irish voters.
MPs from across the political spectrum have urged Theresa May to take action since the historic referendum in the Republic of Ireland earlier this year, in which 65% of voters opted to liberalise the country’s abortion rules.
Since then opposition parties and some senior Conservatives have called on the Prime Minister to repeal similar rules in Northern Ireland that they say force many women to travel to England to access help.
Mrs May has repeatedly resisted attempts to relax abortion laws north of the border, however, saying the issue should be dealt with by the devolved government there - which has not sat for around 18 months.
The cross-party letter was coordinated by Labour’s Stella Creasy, who has spearheaded the campaign, and signed by 173 parliamentarians - including Labour's Harriet Harman, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston and Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald.
It states: “Without urgent action, women and girls living in Northern Ireland will continue to be unable to access safe healthcare at home.
“In 2017, 919 women and girls were forced to travel across to Britain to access a safe abortion, while others took illegal abortion pills in their bedrooms and bathrooms without the support of a medical professional, and others faced criminal prosecution…
“We therefore call for our respective governments to act to ensure that the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is upheld and the human rights of the women living in Northern Ireland are respected.”