Belfast Telegraph

MPs to meet in Belfast for abortion law reform talks

Delegation: Owen Smith
Delegation: Owen Smith

By Eamon Sweeney

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Smith will head up a delegation of Labour MPs in Belfast today for a discussion on the reform of Northern Ireland's abortion law.

The Westminster politicians will meet with representatives of Amnesty International and the Family Planning Association (FPA) as well as MLAs, lawyers, women affected by the current law and healthcare professionals.

The meeting follows the commitment made by Labour in its general election manifesto to ensure women have access to safe and legal abortion.

The party also had strong involvement in bringing about free abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland since June last year.

Mr Smith said he believed the decision on potential reform of the law should be made within devolved institutions in Belfast.

"We will continue to do all we can to see the return of devolution. However, if power returns to Westminster, we will push the Government to make progress on ensuring people in Northern Ireland have the same rights as those elsewhere in the United Kingdom," he said.

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty said: "With Stormont talks under way, the role of the UK Government is not just to be a facilitator in these talks.

"They are responsible for ensuring that long overdue change on abortion happens either via devolution or direct rule. We must not see rights sacrificed for political expediency.

"We are seeing unprecedented cross-party support in the Republic of Ireland on abortion and women here need to see politicians here stand up for their rights.

"No woman on this island must be left behind."

Ruairi Rowan of the FPA said the discussion was timely because of the centenary of the introduction of votes for women.

"It is completely unacceptable that, in the second decade of the 21st century, abortion law in Northern Ireland still stems from a time before women had the right to vote. Every day the FPA see the distress that restrictive abortion law causes to women," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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