Published: Tue, October 22, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Northern Ireland abortion and and same-sex marriage law change deadline passes

Northern Ireland abortion and and same-sex marriage law change deadline passes

It comes as Westminster gave the region until midnight October 21 to reach an agreement and restore its power-sharing government, warning that if the deadline was missed it would step in and reform Northern Ireland's laws on abortion and same-sex marriage directly from London.

The Stormont Assembly is meeting for first time in nearly three years to discuss the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland following the petition.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 2017 when the power-sharing parties - the DUP and Sinn Féin - split after a bitter row.

For the past 52 years abortion law in Northern Ireland was much more strict than the rest of the United Kingdom because the 1967 Abortion Act did not apply.

But outgoing speaker Robin Newton said a new speaker would need to be in place before the assembly could consider the legislation.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is mandated to put in place regulations by 31 March 2020.

The Belfast Telegraph added that Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster lamented the outcome as a "shameful day" for Northern Ireland but vowed that they would "take every legal option available to us" to reverse the new status quo and "do everything in our conscience to protect the lives of the unborn". Women will be offered free transportation to obtain abortion services in England in the meantime.

Earlier this month, the High Court in Belfast ruled that Northern Ireland's abortion laws breached the UK's human rights obligations.

Pressure has mounted, however, to change the Victorian-era laws in recent years, particularly after the neighbouring Irish Republic voted overwhelmingly last year to repeal a similarly restrictive ban, demonstrating a stark change in attitudes on an island once known for its religious conservatism.

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In a statement last night, it said: "The only way an Assembly can be restored on Monday is if the DUP and Sinn Féin form an Executive".

"This law change will not fix what I had to go through but it will make it hopefully better for those who follow after me", she said.

"That has not been possible as the DUP have not engaged in meaningful negotiation since it walked away from a deal and talks in February 2018".

"There are two key areas we are going to consult on".

Before now, abortion was only allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman's life was at risk or there was a danger of permanent and serious damage to her physical or mental health.

"At the latest, the first civil same-sex marriages will take place on the week of Valentine's Day 2020".

The Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has also described the meeting as a "cynical move" that "raises hopes of pro-life people only to dash them & creates distress for many women & for LGBTQ people planning to marry".

"If the DUP applied the same creativity and imagination into getting the institutions up and running as they have in denying rights we would have a functioning Assembly".

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