Theresa May facing calls for abortion reform in NI" width="976" height="549">
Attention has turned to NI after the Republic of Ireland voted overwhelming in favour of overturning the country's abortion ban
A number of senior Conservative MPs have called for NI's abortion law to be reformed after a historic referendum in the Republic of Ireland.Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of Westminster's health committee, said women in Northern Ireland should have the same rights as other UK residents.Northern Ireland's abortion law is more restrictive than the rest of the UK.Downing Street is understood to believe that any reform "is an issue for Northern Ireland".
What next for abortion in NI
But a Downing Street source said it showed "one of the important reasons we need a functioning executive back up and running".Northern Ireland has been without a government since January 2017, after a power-sharing deal between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein collapsed.
Skip Twitter post by @10DowningStreet
“The Irish Referendum yesterday was an impressive show of democracy which delivered a clear and unambiguous result. I congratulate the Irish people on their decision and all of #Together4Yes on their successful campaign.” – PM @theresa_may #repealedthe8th— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) May 27, 2018
End of Twitter post by @10DowningStreet
Mrs May tweeted on Sunday: "The Irish Referendum yesterday was an impressive show of democracy which delivered a clear and unambiguous result. I congratulate the Irish people on their decision and all of #Together4Yes on their successful campaign." - PM @theresa_may #repealedthe8th"
Northern Ireland's abortion rules
Currently, a termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not circumstances in which an abortion can be performed legally.A fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis means doctors believe an unborn child has a terminal condition and will die in the womb or shortly after birth.However, anti-abortion campaigners argue that doctors cannot accurately predict death, saying that terminally-ill babies "can and do defy the odds".There is no restriction on travelling outside Northern Ireland to seek a legal termination in another jurisdiction.Last year, the Westminster government introduced measures to help women from Northern Ireland access free NHS abortions in England.
Why are Northern Ireland's abortion laws different?
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live's Pienaar's Politics programme, Dr Wollaston said she and other MPs in favour of abortion reform would put forward an amendment on the issue to Westminster's Domestic Violence Bill. However, she said she was not sure if the amendment would be accepted for debate as abortion would normally be a devolved issue for Stormont to decide on.
Emotions ran high during the referendum campaign in Ireland
The Women and Equalities minister Penny Mordaunt, and her predecessors Amber Rudd, Justine Greening, Nicky Morgan and Maria Miller, have also called for reform of Northern Ireland's abortion laws.Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has said Mrs May should take advantage of the current lack of a devolved administration and push for reform from Westminster."The position in Northern Ireland is now highly anomalous and I think, probably, action will now have to be taken," he said.
'Ethical changes'
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said she did not want Westminster to legislate for abortions in Northern Ireland, but she argued that Irish law should apply to women from Northern Ireland."I couldn't envisage a situation where women from the north would be precluded from accessing services here in the south," she said. Justice Minister Rory Stewart warned against the Commons intervening on the issue.He told BBC's Sunday Politics, the UK government was acting as a "caretaker" administration in the absence of Stormont, and "that must not be used to make fundamental constitutional, ethical changes on behalf of the people in Northern Ireland".Anti-abortion group Precious Life said the result of the Republic of Ireland's abortion referendum marked the "most tragic day in Irish history".Bernadette Smyth said the result would only "spur on" anti-abortion activists to step up their battle to protect the unborn north of the Irish border,"Northern Ireland is now the beacon of hope to the pro-life movement around the world," she said.
Irish abortion referendum
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