Women in Northern Ireland will have a legal right to safe abortions from midnight local time (23:00 GMT) on Monday, after a last-ditch bid to maintain the illegality of terminations fell apart in the regional legislature.
MPs at Westminster successfully amended a bill in the summer to include measures to end the near-blanket prohibition on abortion and introduce same-sex marriage, bringing Northern Ireland into regulatory alignment with the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Executive Formation Act 2019 will also pave the way for the introduction of a pension for victims of the Troubles.
Once the 19th-century laws that criminalise abortion lapse, and with no working executive in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the UK government will assume responsibility for introducing new regulations to provide greater access to terminations in the region by next April.
In the interim period, women will be offered free transport to access abortion services in England.
“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,” said Sarah Ewart, who became a vocal advocate for reform since having to travel to England for an abortion after receiving a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.
Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said the law change would pave the way for a more “compassionate” system.
“From midnight tonight, history will be made, these oppressive laws that have policed our bodies and our healthcare will be brought to an end,
Monday’s proceedings in East Belfast’s Parliament Buildings were the first time the Assembly had met since January 9, 2017. The legislature still has no executive; funding allocations are made by the civil service, and main budgetary decisions are taken by Parliament in Westminster.
Anti-abortion rights members of the assembly attempted to fast-track a piece of private members’ legislation through in a single day to halt the abortion reform. Under legislation dating from 1861, abortion is illegal in all cases except those which endanger the life of the pregnant woman. MPs led by Stella Creasy, a Labour MP in London, brought the change in the law to allow terminations up to 28 weeks.
Source: Al Jazeera