Manchester Withington MP Jeff Smith has backed campaigners calling for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland.
Following the result in the Irish abortion referendum, in which 66.4% of voters chose to repeal the ban on abortion, the Coalition for Abortion Reform in Northern Ireland have called for a similar move north of the border.
Women in Northern Ireland are still subject to one of the most restrictive and punitive abortion regimes in Europe, with some women facing life imprisonment for seeking to terminate a pregnancy.
In February this year, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women told the UK Government that abortion law in Northern Ireland breached women’s ‘human rights’.
Abortion legislation in Northern Ireland is still covered by the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, which makes abortion illegal in almost all circumstances, including those of rape, incest, and fatal foetal abnormality. There are exceptions made in other parts of legislation for women in Wales and England, but no such exemptions for women in Northern Ireland.
Labour MP Stella Creasy will lead a debate in the House of Commons today on repealing Sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.
Commenting on the campaign, Jeff said:
“Last month women in Ireland achieved a landslide victory and asserted their right to get the care and support they deserve in their home country.
However right now in Belfast, a victim of rape who sought to end an unwanted pregnancy would risk a longer prison sentence than her attacker.
Women in Northern Ireland are rightly now raising their voice for reform. I completely support them, and will be in the Chamber today during Stella’s debate to show my solidarity.
A clear majority of people in Northern Ireland believe this is unacceptable. Theresa May should listen to them and make the necessary legislative changes.”