Opinions on abortion reform remain divided on streets of Belfast
Opinion on abortion law reform remained divided on the streets of Belfast yesterday, with pro-choice activists' strident calls for change contrasting sharply with the views of some members of the public.
Among those attending the Solidarity with Repeal rally was heavily pregnant Lucile Vanlerberghe (31), who has lived here for five years and is originally from France.
"I've been fighting for five years for the decriminalisation of abortion. I want everybody to have a choice, especially as I am pregnant," said Lucile, who is expecting her baby soon.
"If you don't want an abortion, don't get one - but let people get one if they want.
"As a pregnant woman, I can put myself in the shoes of people who have to travel to abort.
"It's a torture to leave a woman who has a fatal foetal abnormality and who wants an abortion to endure nine months of pregnancy."
Belfast woman Paula Poots (42), at the rally with her daughter George (14) and son Sam (9), said that "women here should have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies".
"I don't think that human rights are something you should ever have to vote on, but I was thrilled with the result in the South," she said. "It means women here maybe won't have to get on flights any more, maybe they can visit clinics across the border.
"You would like to see a change in attitude come over the border as well. I think there is a desire in the community for it, but the political parties are stuck in their ways. A lot of the people deciding these issues aren't even women, they are men."
Maria Lourenco (44) from Angola has lived here for 10 years. She said the law here made her feel like "a slave".
"The state owns my reproductive rights, I don't have the right to choose," said Maria, who is Labour NI's ethnic minorities officer.
"Depending on her visa, a migrant woman living here may not even be able to travel to England for abortion due to travel restrictions, and that is very cruel." But on nearby Royal Avenue, Portadown woman Laura Millar (25), described the Irish referendum result as "a disgrace".
"I have Christian beliefs and I believe that the Lord gives and takes life, so I don't believe that a woman has the right to end a life because the baby isn't a part of her, it's another human life from the moment of conception," she said.
"Rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality are very, very hard times in people's lives and it is very hard to come to terms with things like that, but I do believe that God is sovereign, God's in control. I would be against abortion in all circumstances."
Lisburn woman Lynsey Smyth (22) and her mum Thelma (56) said they were "fairly disappointed" at the referendum result.
"At the end of the day there are other decisions - you can put it up for adoption or foster," said Lynsey.
"You do have to think about the mother's mental health, but she could go to a social worker or a counsellor. There's a lot of support and help."