It’s a ridiculous and well known fact that abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland. Being from Northern Ireland myself, I know women personally who this has affected – and it’s high time the law is changed.
Twenty-eight women a week have to make the nerve-wracking and emotional journey to England and Wales, countries where abortion is legal, from Northern Ireland. In a time that’s already very tumultuous and emotionally draining, hopping on a RyanAir flight and hoping your neighbours don’t report you is the LAST thing a woman needs.
Thankfully, some wonderful people are taking a stand and participating in a suitcase march on Parliament tomorrow, on Tuesday 26th February 2019. In total, 28 women will join the march on Westminster Bridge – to represent the number of women travelling from NI per week – holding suitcases filled with sheets of paper with the names of 62,000 people calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. They’ll then deliver these to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State by posting the names into a large Perspex box outside the Northern Ireland office.
Joining the march are two of the cast of Derry Girls (possibly my favourite TV show in the world) Nicola Coughlan (Clare Devlin) and Siobhan McSweeney (Sister Michael), as well as cross-party MPs including Karin Smyth, Diana Johnson, Heidi Allen and Christine Jardine and a host of abortion-rights activists.
Speaking to Amnesty, Siobhan McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael in TV series Derry Girls, said:
“The North has been neglected for too long. It makes me so angry that women there are being denied bodily autonomy and health care services available to others in the rest of the UK and Ireland – they have reproductive rights too. I’ll be here fighting alongside Amnesty for Northern Ireland until the degrading law there is changed. It has to happen soon.”
While Nicola Coughlan, who plays Clare Devlin in Derry Girls, said:
“It was such a proud moment when we Repealed the 8th in Ireland but it’s now time our sisters in Northern Ireland get the change so desperately overdue. Let’s do this for women everywhere. Women who have abortions are not criminals, it’s time the law stopped treating them as such.”
Well, girls, we’re right behind you, and we couldn’t think of a better way to close the news than with a quote from Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager:
“The time for change is now. Northern Ireland cannot be left behind as the only part of the UK and Ireland with a near total ban on abortion. It’s 2019 – time we had laws that respect and value women’s lives.”
Add your voice to Amnesty’s petition here.