The overwhelming victory for repeal shows an appetite for change which should be recognised in Northern Ireland too
The implications of the Irish referendum vote will be felt around the world. The most immediate effect must be in Northern Ireland: five Conservative women who have all been ministers for women and equality are urging Theresa May to override the DUP and significantly relax abortion laws there. They are right to do so, although she is resisting. The province’s absurdly strict law means rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not seen as valid reasons for termination. However, Ireland will now be looking to make an abortion law that reflects the 21st century – and so should the United Kingdom as a whole.
Labour MP Stella Creasy has proposed amendments to a forthcoming domestic violence bill which would provide a mechanism to do so. Abortion in the UK is framed by a 1967 statute which did not decriminalise termination but introduced a narrow exemption from the criminal law. Deeper reforms are needed and these must be extended across the UK. At the very least, women in England and Wales, like those in Scotland, ought to be allowed to take the abortion pill in their own homes. It is a fraught debate but on a free vote this will surely be carried. The home secretary, Sajid Javid, must provide MPs with a bill that would allow Ms Creasy’s amendments to relax abortion laws across the UK.
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