Abortion legislation should be urgently reformed in Northern Ireland, leaders say

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Abortion legislation should be urgently reformed in Northern Ireland, political leaders said.

Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists said the matter was best dealt with through a restored Stormont Assembly.

That body has not sat for two and a half years, in a row over the place of the Irish language.

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O’Neill said: “There is now an urgent need for reform of the legislation to provide the option of abortion where a woman’s life, health or mental health is at risk, and in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, and without specific indication for a limited gestational period, so that cases of sexual crime can be dealt with in a compassionate manner.

“Sinn Fein believes that this and all outstanding rights issues in the north of Ireland should properly be dealt with, not at Westminster, but by locally accountable politicians in the Assembly.

“Sinn Fein’s focus remains to get the political institutions up and running on the basis of equality, rights and respect, so that we can address all of these important issues.

“The DUP’s anti-equality agenda, the confidence and supply deal with the Tories, and Brexit, remain the obstacle to this.”

DUP Assembly member Carla Lockhart said her party was ready to return to devolved Government tomorrow with no pre-conditions.

Sinn Fein is seeking commitments on what it terms rights issues, like the place of the Irish language.

Ms Lockhart said there was no human right to “abortion on request” and criticised the passage of legislation on the matter by MPs at Westminster.

“The Northern Ireland Assembly is where this issue should be decided, following consultation with the people of Northern Ireland and a proper legislative process.

“The NI (Executive Formation etc.) Act was a classic example of poorly thought through and badly drafted legislation.

“The people of Northern Ireland deserve far better than what they got from Westminster on this issue.”

Amnesty International supported Sarah Ewart during her court challenge.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “This ground-breaking ruling is a huge win for abortion rights in Northern Ireland.

““The court has spoken – the abortion law is a clear violation of our rights.

“Earlier this year Parliament legislated to reform abortion law and bring an end to the near total ban which has harmed many.

“Today’s ruling shows just how urgently we need change, so that we can access this healthcare without having to travel and without being treated as criminals.

“There can be no delay – we must see free, safe, legal and local abortion services opening up within months.”

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