Until now, Northern Ireland has been the only part of the UK that had not allowed same-sex marriage while also upholding a restrictive ban on abortion.
But today, when the clock struck midnight, the country’s obsolete abortion laws and ban on same-sex marriage was finally lifted.
It’s a historic day for women and the LGBTQ+ community in Northern Ireland, as they celebrate their newfound rights and freedoms which should have been given to them long ago.
Just over one year since the Republic of Ireland repealed the 8th amendment, women have been freed from the anxiety and dread of prosecution when undergoing a termination, while queer couples are now empowered to celebrate their love through marriage.
Northern Ireland’s severe laws have forced thousands of people to travel elsewhere for terminations and have even seen women criminalised for accessing abortion pills. From today, anyone in Northern Ireland who needs an abortion will have the cost of the termination, their travel to England, and accommodation paid for by the British government, while those who order abortion pills online can seek aftercare from a medical professional.
“Today marks the first step in getting women in Northern Ireland equal rights with their counterparts in England and Wales,” Labour MP Stella Creasy, said.
“When it comes to being able to make decisions over their own bodies, women and girls in Northern Ireland will no longer be threatened with the criminal law. It is vital that we do not now see any backroom deals in parliament or in the assembly to water down the commitment we made to treat women in Northern Ireland as equals. We will accept no more delays in the regulations governing access. Women in Northern Ireland have waited long enough. We will accept no more delays in the regulations governing access. Women in Northern Ireland have waited long enough”
Today is also a monumental day for queer people in Northern Ireland, with the arrival of equal marriage rights being welcomed by the LGBTQ+ community with open arms.
“The feeling on the ground is one of hope, hope that we might finally be able to celebrate our love in the same way that same-sex couples have been able to do in the rest of the UK and Ireland for some time now. Today we are walking a little taller than we were 48 hours ago,” said campaigner, Stephen Donnan-Dalzell.
This incredible political victory is due to the hard work and determination of activists and grassroots organisations who have been fighting tirelessly for these fundamental rights for many years.