As of today on the 21st of October 2019, Northern Ireland has legalized same-sex marriage and has decriminalized abortion.
These sudden changes to the law are a huge step forward in terms of protecting Northern Ireland’s women and their LGBTQ+ community, and it’s easy to say that they have been a long time coming.
This U-turn in the law comes as a result of backbench MPs taking amendments to a routine Common’s bill on the governance of Northern Ireland.
Labour MP Conor McGinn, who hails from County Armagh, proposed that Westminster legislate for same-sex marriage and fellow labour MP Stella Creasy then proposed the decriminalization of abortion
The changes in the law have now brought Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the U.K and the Republic of Ireland.
However, pro-life groups have argued the changes have come into practice without anyone in Northern Ireland being able to vote in favor or against them.
Some people urged the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to restore the devolved government by compromising on Irish language legislation in a desperate bid to block the updated abortion law, but this would have been very difficult as the DUP have always openly been a pro-choice party.
The DUP actually gained enough signatures for a recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, but the party is unable to form a government without the support of a second party.
Sky News senior Ireland reporter David Blevins said in a statement: “Pro-choice groups say the DUP – who are arguing at Westminster for Northern Ireland to be treated the same as Great Britain on Brexit – will be arguing at Stormont for Northern Ireland to be treated differently on same-sex marriage and abortion.”
“But the DUP says some of those calling for a second vote on Brexit are now welcoming the fact that same-sex marriage and abortion are being introduced in Northern Ireland without any public vote at all,” he went on to say.
Just last month, the High Court in Belfast finally ruled that the current anti-abortion laws in Northern Ireland are a direct breach of the UK’s commitment to human rights.
Abortion has always been illegal in the country – unless there is a risk to a woman’s life or to her mental or physical health – so this change in the law is a huge step in the right direction for Northern Ireland.