Irish abortion vote puts pressure on UK government

Posted at 9:09 AM, May 28, 2018

(CNN) — The historic result in Ireland’s referendum on abortion has piled pressure on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to reform the law in Northern Ireland, where terminations are still illegal.

Members of Parliament from across the political divide have called on the UK government to change the law in Northern Ireland, to bring it into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland.

Decision on abortion law are devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, but it has been suspended for more than a year, due to a political deadlock.

May’s government depends on support from the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, a deeply conservative party that opposes any attempt to ease restrictions on abortion.

Abortion was legalized in the rest of the UK in 1967, but the liberalization was never extended to Northern Ireland.

“The Government must act to ensure that women in Northern Ireland have the same rights as women across the rest of the UK,” said Labour MP and Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler on Twitter.

“Labour is calling for the Government immediately to begin negotiations with political parties in Northern Ireland about legislation to extend abortion rights.”

In a statement, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Friday’s referendum has no impact upon the law in Northern Ireland, but we obviously take note of issues impacting upon our nearest neighbor.”

“The DUP is a pro-life party and we will continue to articulate our position. It is an extremely sensitive issue and not one that should have people taking to the streets in celebration.”

More than 160 MPs, including some Conservatives, have written to May demanding she allow a referendum on relaxing the abortion laws in Northern Ireland. The UK’s Royal College of Midwives also supports such a move.

A referendum on the issue in the Irish republic to repeal a constitutional ban on most abortions returned a 2-1 landslide for the “Yes” side.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has pledged to introduce legislation to legalize abortion in the largely Catholic nation by the end of the year.