After decades of historic campaigning, abortion and same-sex marriage has been made legal in Northern Ireland for the first time.
By Georgia-May Keetch
Pro-choice campaigners in Northern Ireland have celebrated “an historic moment”, as abortion and same-sex marriage became legal for the first time.
Equality campaigners celebrated the ruling on Monday as when it hit midnight, the laws extending abortion and marriage rights came into force; ushering the momentous social change.The new legislation puts the House of Commons on track to legislate for marriage equality by January 2020, paving the way for same-sex couples to wed from 14 February – Valentine’s Day.The abortion law obliges the UK to ensure regulations for free, legal and local abortion services are in place by 31 March 2020. Equality campaigners were celebrating before the midnight deadline for law to take effect in the country.
The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, in contrast, lamented a “shameful” day and said her party would examine ways to repeal the legislation. “We will do everything in our conscience to protect the lives of the unborn,” she said. The Conservative government, reliant on DUP votes in Westminster, declined to intervene, saying both issues were for devolved government.
When contacted for comment, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign said :
“This is a new beginning and a new era for Northern Ireland- one where we are free from oppressive laws that have policed our bodies and healthcare”.
Previously, northern ireland has been the only part of the united kingdom that doesnt allow same-sex couples to be married and there was a ban on abortions in almost all cases including rape and incest; except where a mothers life is at risk.
Even though the legalities will be sorted, legislation encapsulates more than just a marriage and a pregnancy termination. Marriage equality requires marriage licenses as well as people to conduct ceremonies, make cakes, and provide venues. Safe abortions means not only access to abortion services, but also counselling, advice, education, and aftercare.
Women in the province have been forced to travel to other parts of the UK to access terminations, and earlier this month the High Court in Belfast ruled that its abortion rules contravene UK human rights laws. The case was heard by Justice Keegan after Sarah Ewart challenged the law having been denied an abortion in Northern Ireland in 2013, even though doctors had said her unborn child would not survive outside the womb. Instead she traveled to London to end her pregnancy.
Couples will have to wait the usual 28 days after submitting their intention to marry, setting up Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2020 – as a landmark occasion for same-sex partners in NI.
Patrick Corrigan, NI director of Amnesty International, said: “There could be no more fitting date for NI’s first same-sex weddings than Valentine’s Day.”