Northern Irish women who decide to voluntarily terminate their pregnancy will now be able to benefit from the legislation in force in the rest of the United Kingdom. And the same will happen with those same-sex couples who decide to marry. Until now, this British territory, which had its own powers to legislate in these matters, considered abortion cases from an exclusively criminal and very restrictive perspective and refused to admit homosexual marriage. As of March 31, 2020, citizens of Northern Ireland will be entitled to free, local and unrestricted assistance from public health services. And a moratorium has been imposed with immediate effect on all those abortion cases that are currently subject to police investigation or under judicial process.
In the case of homosexual marriage, it will be allowed from February 14, Valentine’s Day. Legislators have wanted to make a special nod to LGTB organizations and have chosen Valentine’s Day for the entry into force.
The Legislative Assembly and the Government of Northern Ireland have been paralyzed for three years, due to the lack of understanding between unionists and republicans, forced to make their decisions jointly by the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accords. London has regained control while the parties do not resolve your differences. This power vacuum was used by some Labor MPs in the UK Parliament to harmonize the territory’s abortion legislation with that of the rest of the country.
He Strasbourg Human Rights Court had already warned of the illegality of the situation. A deadline was granted until midnight this Monday for the Northern Irish deputies to adapt their legislation, if they wanted to prevent London from doing it for them. Despite the conservative governments, first by Theresa May and then by Boris Johnson, washing their hands and affirming that it was a matter for the exclusive competence of the Northern Irish, a majority of deputies in Westminster decided to support the intervention.
The Northern Irish unionists of the DUP, parliamentary allies of the Conservative Government in Westminster, urgently convened the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday to stop the decision. The boycott of the rest of the parties, which did not attend the call, frustrated their efforts. Anti-abortion groups rallied outside the Stormont Assembly to protest the measure, while feminist and human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, celebrated the change in the law. “A new era has begun in Northern Ireland, in which we have freed ourselves from oppressive laws that had put our bodies and health under police surveillance,” said Graine Teggart, Amnesty International’s head of part of the British territory. island of Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Assembly of Catholic Bishops has expressed its opposition to the changes in a particularly harsh statement. “Abortion is a brutal violation of the sacred right to life. The right to life is not given to us by any law or government,” they have said. The Northern Irish Catholic authorities have interfered in the political process to ask voters to avoid legal change with their ballots, both in the case of abortion and homosexual marriage. “We are concerned about this redefinition of marriage that equates the union of two men or two women with that of a husband and wife, the latter destined for the procreation of children,” they have said.
The leader of the DUP unionists has described the decision as “shameful” and has promised that her formation will use all the means at its disposal to reverse the law. “We will do everything possible under our conscience to protect the lives of the unborn,” he assured. The DUP, however, is aware of the mentality and social demographic changes that Northern Ireland has experienced in recent years. Its inhabitants share a much more open and tolerant view of abortion and same-sex marriage with their neighbors in the Republic of Ireland and with the citizens of England, Scotland and Wales. However, the proximity of a new electoral process in which the polls indicate a setback of the unionists, aggravated by their loss of influence in Westminster to control Brexit, has led this formation to try to mark territory with respect to social laws.
In the rest of the territories that make up the United Kingdom, same-sex marriage and abortion are legal, although it is governed by a law of assumptions, it is much freer. Women can interrupt their pregnancy during the first 24 weeks. They need the approval of two doctors, who must agree that carrying the pregnancy to term poses a serious risk to the mother’s mental or physical health. This concept includes cases of rape or incest. And the probability that the fetus suffers physical or mental malformations. Although the law does not make express reference to the economic or social conditions of the pregnant woman, it does not prevent health specialists from taking them into consideration. Since 2018, pregnant women can take the “morning after” pills that interrupt the pregnancy in their own home, without medical assistance.
In Northern Ireland, a historically much more conservative society than the rest of the UK, there were no laws to regulate the termination of pregnancy. It was still criminalized and subject to the penal framework, with minimal exceptions of a drastic nature (not even excluding the violation of the severity of the law) that the judges could arbitrarily apply.