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Global day of action abortion rights


September 28 was Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion.

Activists in London made a presentation of 600 wire coat hangers to Jeremy Hunt – the Secretary for Health in the UK – to highlight the fact that, according to the Family Planning Association, 1,500 women from Northern Ireland travel to England to avail of safe, legal abortions each year.

While abortion was legalised in England, Scotland and Wales in 1967, Northern Ireland was excluded from the Abortion Act of 1967.

At that time, the province had its own parliament, and the issue of abortion was left for the local parliament to legislate on.

There was huge opposition – on both sides of the sectarian divide – to the legalising of abortion in the six counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone.

When Direct Rule returned to Westminster, the legalisation of abortion was never extended to Northern Ireland.

At the moment, a woman there can only obtain an abortion in order to preserve her own life. Abortions are also allowed if continuing with the pregnancy poses a threat to the mother’s mental health.

Initially, a march was planned for Belfast on 29 September, but it clashed with a march to mark the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, which had been organised first.

The Belfast march will now take place on Saturday, 6 October, at 3.30pm. Pro-Choice supporters will congregate in Cornmarket Belfast to protest the current laws regarding abortion on the island of Ireland.

In solidarity with their sisters in the Republic of Ireland, women from Northern Ireland travelled south to march in Dublin.

Saturday saw approximately 3,500 men, women and children – including me and my children – march to highlight the lack of access to safe, legal abortions there.

In the Republic, abortion is outlawed even if the foetus has a condition incompatible with life.

This denial of access to safe, legal abortions means that while they are available in England, Scotland and Wales, not every woman can access them.

For most, the procedure will cost them approximately £800; and that’s before women organise days off work, childcare and make other necessary arrangements.

Most women don’t have access to that kind of money.

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