Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

170 Irish and UK politicians sign letter calling for change to the North's abortion laws

Northern Ireland has been without a government for over a year and a half – so Westminster and Dublin are being asked to introduce new abortion laws.

Source: SIPA USA

OVER 150 POLITICIANS from the UK and Ireland have signed a letter calling on the UK and Irish governments to liberalise abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald and vice-president Michelle O’Neill are among the 170 signatories to the letter, which is addressed to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Currently, it’s illegal for a woman in the North to get an abortion unless there’s a risk to her life or a serious risk to her mental health. This differs from the rest of the UK where abortion without restriction is allowed up to 24 weeks.

After a landslide vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment from the Irish Constitution – which restricted Ireland’s abortion laws by stating that the right to life of the unborn was equal to the right to life of the mother – attention has immediately turned to similar laws in Northern Ireland.

Anti-abortion protesters wait for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to pass at St Mary's University College, Belfast.

Source: Laura Hutton

According to the Guardian 342 women and girls from the North went to England for a termination through the British Pregnancy Advisory Service since March.

The letter, published in the Sunday Times today, states that the Good Friday Agreement places a responsibility on the co-guarantors to “uphold and protect the human rights of all the residents of Northern Ireland”.

“This responsibility cannot be abandoned for political expediency; and if falls to each of us to help ensure that these commitments are proactively upheld.”

The Stormont Assembly has been left without a government since Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness withdrew his party’s support from the Executive last year over the cash-for-ash scandal, demanding that DUP leader Arlene Foster step aside as First Minister (which she repeatedly refused to do).

Despite numerous marathon talks, there’s still a stalemate between the two main parties the DUP and Sinn Féin. This has left civil servants making government decisions, and Westminster passing a budget for the region to keep essential services going.

Northern Irish women at the Emmeline Pankhurst statue in London, as they protest against liberalising abortion laws from Westminster.

Source: Dominic Lipinski

The DUP is a pro-Brexit, pro-life party that opposes gay marriage. Despite many of those issues being contentious, they remain in a significantly powerful as they’re currently propping up Theresa May’s minority Conservative government.

Speculation continues over whether May would risk making a move – such as liberalising the North’s abortion laws – that would jeopardise her position, particularly at such a crucial time in Brexit negotiations.

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