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Belfast City Council backs Westminster action on abortion and equal marriage

Belfast City Council has passed a motion supporting action from Westminster on the decriminalisation of abortion and equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Last night the council voted to support the Act after that passed through Parliament on Wednesday that means that the UK Government is set to be held to account over Northern Ireland’s abortion and same sex marriage law.

Humanists UK has welcomed the council’s decision saying it is a sign of growing consensus that the people of Northern Ireland want action for the rights of women and LGBT people.

The Bill, which passed through the House of Lords after amendment in the Commons by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn. The amendment places an obligation on the UK Government to review Northern Irish abortion and same-sex marriage law in the light of recent, current, and future human rights rulings in the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly, which has been dissolved for over 18 months.

On the passage of the Act, Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented: ‘Given the absence of a functioning Assembly, it is right that our failing abortion and same-sex marriage laws will be scrutinised in Westminster. These issues impact the daily lives of many individuals and cannot be sidelined. We will continue campaigning for equal access to abortion rights and same-sex marriage across the UK.’

Abortion law in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe and the criminal sanctions imposed are amongst the harshest in the world, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment. It is only legal in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. A Supreme Court judgment earlier this year said that for human rights reasons, abortion must become legal in the cases of rape or incest, or where there is a fatal foetal abnormality.

Current restrictions force women to either travel to the UK to receive treatment, risk prosecution for procuring illegal online abortion pills, or continue their pregnancies against their wishes and in violation of their rights. There is no exception made for pregnancies that arise as a result of sexual crime or where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson on richy@humanism.org.uk or 0781 55 89 636, or Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator on boyd.sleator@nihumanists.org or on 07918 975 795.

For more information about Humanists UK’s campaigning work on abortion, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

Humanists UK recently intervened in a Northern ireland abortion case. Read more at https://humanism.org.uk/2018/09/18/humanists-uk-to-intervene-in-northern-ireland-abortion-case/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.

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