With devolution still on hold, the decision by a huge majority of MPs to vote in favour of equal marriage and abortion should be welcomed
The law on abortion in Northern Ireland is an anomaly that should have been dealt with long ago. The near-total ban, dating back to 1861 and including abortion in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality, is among the most restrictive in the world. It is also an affront to the rights of women – as both the UK supreme court and a United Nations committee ruled separately last year.
Since abortion is a devolved issue, and the proper business of the Stormont assembly rather than the UK parliament, Tuesday’s House of Commons vote in favour of liberalisation was not the ideal way to resolve an appalling situation. Given the circumstances, with power-sharing at Stormont suspended in 2017 and human rights violations ongoing, it was a humane and constructive step. Labour’s Stella Creasy deserves credit for her tenacity in pushing for it. That Conor McGinn’s amendment to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland also passed by a huge majority made the news all the sweeter. This was a day of celebration for many Northern Irish people, as Sara Canning, partner of the murdered journalist and LGBT rights campaigner Lyra McKee, explained in an article for the Guardian.
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