Belfast Telegraph

Labour MPs introduce plan to reform Northern Ireland's abortion and marriage laws

By Gareth Cross

Two Labour MPs have launched a bid to reform Northern Ireland's abortion laws and introduce same-sex marriage.

Armagh-born Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy have tabled amendments to new legislation from Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

Mrs Bradley introduced legislation in the House of Commons this week in an attempt to give further decision making powers to Northern Ireland's civil servants in the absence of a Stormont Assembly.

The DUP are opponents of both same-sex marriage and abortion rights and Prime Minister Theresa May's government currently relies on DUP MPs to pass key legislation through their confidence and supply agreement.

Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland in all but the most extreme cases and as a result on average 28 women a week travel to England for terminations.

Campaigns for abortion legislation to be introduced in Northern Ireland have ramped up in the wake of the successful Abortion Referendum in the Republic of Ireland.

Labour MP Stella Creasy has been an outspoken supporter of abortion rights for women in Northern Ireland and has raised the issue in the Commons on a number of occasions.

In June Supreme Court judges said that Northern Ireland's existing laws were incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

However they dismissed a challenge from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission over the legality of Northern Ireland's abortion law.

Mr McGinn, who is originally from Armagh has been campaigning alongside human rights campaigners in an attempt to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Same-sex couples are allowed to wed in England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, but it is against the law in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this year Mr McGinn proposed a Bill to legalise same-sex marriage but it was blocked at its Second Reading, meaning it could not proceed through the Commons.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said it is the responsibility of devolved authorities to deliver change, but there has been no Stormont Executive in place since January 2017

Speaking to the The Guardian Mr McGinn said that equal marriage rights were "long overdue".

“Every poll shows that equal marriage has the support of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, most of the political parties there and the overwhelming number of MPs in the House of Commons.

"This amendment gives the government the opportunity to match its words with deeds and bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.”

Mrs Creasy described the current situation in Northern Ireland as a "travesty".

“The inequality in basic human rights between the people of Northern Ireland and their fellow citizens in the rest of the UK is a travesty," she said.

"The Prime Minister has repeatedly promised MPs a free vote on these issues – it’s now time to see if she puts principle or staying in power with the DUP first.”

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