Same-sex marriage and abortion officially became legal in Northern Ireland at midnight on October 22
Same-sex marriage and abortion are now both officially legal in Northern Ireland as of midnight last night.
The matters of same-sex marriage and abortion had previously been deemed to be a “devolved matter” in British Parliament, meaning it should be left up to Northern Ireland’s Assembly to decide. However, with no Assembly in place for more than two years in Northern Ireland, backbench members of the British Labour party argued that the two issues can no longer be ignored.
In July, Labour MP Conor McGinn, a native of Co Armagh who now represents St. Helen’s North in British Parliament, introduced the same-sex marriage bill, and MP Stella Creasy, also a member of the Labour party, introduced the abortion bill.
The UK’s House of Commons voted 383 votes to 73 votes in favor of marriage equality, and 332 votes to 99 votes in favor of abortion rights.
On October 21, when it became certain that a new Assembly would not be enacted in time, MP Creasy simply tweeted an emoji of a thumbs-up with the hashtag #TheNorthIsNow.
When the Republic of Ireland voted to decriminalize abortion in 2018, the hashtag #TheNorthIsNext grew popular, which was also partially in response to the 1967 Abortion Act, which liberalized abortion throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, but the laws were never extended to Northern Ireland.
On October 21, Michelle O’Neill, vice president for the political party Sinn Fein, tweeted her delight about the new legislation in the region:
As of midnight, the North has taken a huge step forward in LGBT+ and women's rights.
I want to commend all those that have campaigned over the decades for these fundamental rights.
Let's continue to build an inclusive and just society that cherishes all its citizens equally. pic.twitter.com/ALz9YQjE93— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) October 21, 2019
Alliance for Choice, a pro-choice group based in Northern Ireland, tweeted on Monday that they welcomed the news:
Alliance for Choice will welcome the Repeal of sections 58&59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act, which has until now barred thousands upon thousands of women & pregnant people from access to abortion healthcare at home and with dignity, at midnight. https://t.co/Lu8aDzPfpO pic.twitter.com/uvBR3uMdxf— Alliance For Choice (@All4Choice) October 21, 2019
The group later tweeted: “We will be working hard to make sure the regulations provide accessible abortion healthcare for everyone who wants or needs it.”
Abortion has been decriminalised.
We will be working hard to make sure the regulations provide accessible abortion healthcare for everyone who wants or needs it. pic.twitter.com/RYOyLc4T5K— Alliance For Choice (@All4Choice) October 21, 2019
As per the new guidelines, any pending investigations or prosecutions about women who have procured abortions in Northern Ireland are to cease. While full abortion services will likely not be available in Northern Ireland until late March 2020, all doctors in the region are now required to provide full information about abortion services to women.
Amnesty International tweeted:
Normal heart rate:
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Heart rate when you find out abortion & same sex marriage are legal in Northern Ireland:
拾 拾— Amnesty International (@amnesty) October 22, 2019
拾 拾 拾 拾 拾
Celebrations in Belfast
Celebrations abounded in Belfast in the wake of the news.
Kevin Scott, a photographer for The Belfast Telegraph, shared this amazing video from Maverick Bar in Belfast that hosted a countdown celebration:
The Sunflower Public House venue in Belfast shared these pictures of couples popping the question:
There was no hanging about from these ones... ️Publiée par Sunflower Public House & Live Music sur Lundi 21 octobre 2019
But not all the reactions were celebratory
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), attempted to push through a last minute piece of legislation on Monday to prevent the decriminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland. With Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party boycott what they slammed a "political stunt" at Stormont, there wasn't sufficient cross-party coordination to elect a new Speaker, meaning no new business could be mounted.
Arlene Foster, the head of the DUP, retweeted this message from her party colleague MP Paul Givan which said their "fight will go on:"
My letter to the Attorney General and the response. Today was a missed opportunity to protect life. Thank you to those MLAs that took their seats and supported this initiative. The fight for the most important right of all the right to life will go on! pic.twitter.com/0Exp9Xo3u8— Paul Givan (@paulgivan) October 21, 2019
Precious Life, a pro-life group in Northern Ireland who staged a protest at Stormont on Monday, says their battle is not over:
'We need Leaders not in love with Money but in love with JUSTICE!— Precious Life (@PreciousLifeCom) October 22, 2019
Not in love with Publicity, But in love with HUMANITY'
Martin Luther king jr. #NotInMyName #FightBack #TheNorthIsProLife #WeStandforLife #TheBattleisNotOver pic.twitter.com/7515NIWKQZ
What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland? Let us know in the comments