Amnesty International and sexual health charity the Family Planning Association are today hosting a delegation of Labour MPs in Belfast, led by Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith.
The MPs are meeting with key individuals and organisations working to reform abortion law in Northern Ireland, following Labour’s manifesto commitment last year to work with the Northern Ireland Assembly on extending the right to a “safe, legal abortion” to Northern Ireland.
They include MLAs, legal professionals, healthcare professionals, women affected by the law, and a range of civic society organisations.
Mr Smith said: “In our 2017 manifesto the Labour Party committed to working with the Northern Ireland Assembly to strengthen women’s rights to choose a safe abortion. That is why today we are in Northern Ireland meeting with Amnesty, FPA, MLAs, legal and healthcare professionals, civil society representatives and, most importantly, women affected by the current law in Northern Ireland.
“We believe that this is a decision that should be made in Stormont by a returned Stormont Assembly and Executive and we will continue to do all we can to see the return of devolution. However, if power returns to Westminster, we will push the Government to make progress on ensuring people in Northern Ireland have the same rights as those elsewhere in the United Kingdom.”
Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland campaigns manager for Amnesty, said: “We welcome the commitment of the Labour Party to ensuring women’s access to free, safe and legal abortion. Westminster must be ready to legislate for change on abortion if the Stormont talks fail.Today’s meetings are a key part of our work to build a cross-party constituency of support for change at Westminster. Devolution is no justification for the denial of women’s rights and it does not relieve the UK Government of their responsibility to ensure that women’s right to abortion is upheld.
“With Stormont talks underway, the role of the UK Government is not just to be a facilitator in these talks. They are responsible for ensuring that long overdue change on abortion happens either via devolution or direct rule. We must not see rights sacrificed for political expediency.
“At a time when we are witnessing unprecedented cross-party political leadership in the Republic of Ireland on abortion, women need to see politicians here stand up for their rights. No woman on this island must be left behind. To those who seek to hold back reform, we say: your time is up, women will not wait.”