Student leader says repeal 8th victory must lead to choice in Northern Ireland

NUS-USI President Olivia Potter-Hughes has welcomed the victory in the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment saying it must lead to the delivery of free, safe, legal and local abortion access in Northern Ireland.

NUS-USI President Olivia Potter-Hughes said: “Politicians in Northern Ireland and in Westminster must heed and act upon this historic result. Social attitudes in the North towards abortion reform are not accurately reflected by our elected representatives”.

“The time for change is long overdue and Westminster has a duty to legislate on human rights issues in Northern Ireland where Stormont government has failed. It is completely unacceptable that women and pregnant people are forced to travel to access the healthcare they should be entitled to at home. This as a matter of urgency. There can be no delay in this, because the wellbeing of more and more pregnant people is being placed at risk with every day that passes without reform to the draconian legislation that exists on abortion in Northern Ireland”.

“This victory is testament to the incredible activists, student movement and grassroots feminists who campaigned tirelessly to show people in Ireland how important it is that women’s rights and reproductive rights for anyone who can become pregnant are treated as vital. Not only does the safety of the pregnant person need to be protected, but they should have the freedom to choose and make decisions about their own body.”

“The victory of Together for Yes has already sparked a renewed external focus on abortion access in Northern Ireland, with many calling for the UK Government to allow for a referendum on abortion rights and marriage equality here.”

“This is not what the campaign for decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, Alliance for Choice wants. Both Westminster and Stormont have the ability to legislate this change and a referendum in Northern Ireland wouldn’t be binding or guarantee any law reform.”

“I for one do not want to see more people put through the ordeal of publicly pleading for their human rights. It’s dehumanising. We can just look at what the people in the Republic had to go through to achieve repeal. People had to publicise some of the most traumatic and personal parts of their lives while enduring ridicule and abuse. No one should support a call for forcing people to publically beg for rights that should be legislated for immediately, for the sake of a referendum that would not have any binding consequence.”

It is also important to note that activists here are not requesting an extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. We are calling for full decriminalisation of abortion. Three people still have to travel or take safe but illegal abortion pills in the North of Ireland every single day.”

“Northern Ireland cannot be left trailing the rest of the UK and Ireland in the same way it has done for a number of years regarding marriage equality. These wrongs must be corrected, and we cannot allow those who seek to deny equality to fob people off when, all the while, people’s rights are being violated.”

“It is time.”

If you live in Northern Ireland and need access to an abortion, visit https://womenhelp.org/ (under 9 weeks), https://www.asn.org.uk/ (over 9 weeks) and note the BPAS aftercare helpline 0800 077 6049 (from Northern Ireland).

You can make donations to the Alliance for Choice campaign for free, safe, legal and local abortion access in Northern Ireland here: https://localgiving.org/donation/alliance4choice

ENDS

For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Olivia.potter-hughes@nistudents.org.

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