May urged to act to liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion laws


Theresa May faced calls to act urgently to give MPs the opportunity to liberalise Northern Ireland's abortion laws.

The Prime Minister has been reluctant to intervene in the row because it is a devolved issue, but the collapse of the Stormont administration means MPs have pressed for action at Westminster.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd accused Mrs May of "failing women" with every day that passes without action.

There have been repeated calls for reform in Northern Ireland since the Republic of Ireland voted in a referendum to back reform of its abortion laws.

But Mrs May's DUP allies staunchly oppose relaxing restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

Women who have been affected by the restrictions were due to meet MPs in the Commons on Tuesday to push for action.

Mr Lloyd said: "Theresa May and her Government are failing women on abortion with every passing day.

"An immediate action the Prime Minister should take is to meet with all Northern Ireland political parties and agree legislation on this issue, and then bring this to the House of Commons as a matter of urgency.

"Abortion must be decriminalised and a human rights compliant framework for access put in place. Nothing else will suffice.

"We must listen to women and the organisations working with them on the need for change and then fulfil our duty to deliver this."

Amnesty International's campaigns manager for Northern Ireland Grainne Teggart said: "Nothing but an apparent lack of will is preventing Theresa May from doing this.

"It's hugely insulting and negligent to women to continue to hide behind devolution as justification for the denial of healthcare that women in the rest of the UK can take for granted.

"All the time the Prime Minister stays cruelly silent on this issue, we will grow stronger and louder in our demands for justice and equality for the women of Northern Ireland.

"It is time the Prime Minister listened to women's experiences and witnessed the harsh reality of a near total ban on abortion."