NUS-USI responds to abortion and marriage equality law

Legislation to decriminalise abortion and legalise same-sex marriage in NI will come into effect at midnight tonight, 21 October 2019, under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019.

The student movement in NI is celebrating a milestone moment, with legislation to decriminalise abortion and legalise same-sex marriage set to come into force.

Following decades of student-led activism, legislation passed at Westminster will come into effect at midnight after cross-party talks to reinstate power sharing at Stormont failed to yield an executive by today’s deadline.

NUS-USI, the representative body of students in NI, has welcomed the enhancement of the rights of women and the LGBT+ community, and is now calling on parties to work to restore the executive and a reformed assembly after more than one thousand days in suspension.

Robert Murtagh, President of NUS-USI said:

“Today is a truly historic day, one which is the result of years of grassroots activism which students have been at the heart of. I want to pay tribute and express my deep gratitude to the countless student activists who have worked tirelessly towards this momentous occasion. You have each played your part in history, and NI is a better place because of you.

“NUS-USI wants to see power sharing restored in a reformed assembly. We should never have been put in the position to make the choice between civil rights and local government, and we urge the parties to intensify talks. However, any future assembly must respect the law and not act as a blockage to fundamental rights. But, for today we are celebrating that we are now moving towards a more equal NI for everyone.”

Jill McManus, NUS-USI Women’s Officer said:

“These changes have come about because of the decades-long work of thousands of LGBT+ and feminist activists. Their fight for change has inspired young women like me into activism to use our voices for a better, more just world. It should never be the case that a student should have to travel for abortion care or risk prosecution for procuring abortion pills. Abortion is healthcare.

“Through NUS-USI’s Trust Us campaign, we will continue the fight to ensure the new abortion regulations in March 2020 are inclusive and ensure access to important groups, such as the LGBT+ community, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and disabled people. We stand together in the movement for reproductive justice.”

Lucas Eli Finch, NUS-USI LGBT+ Officer said:

“The introduction of equal marriage is an extremely welcome sight after years of hard work and perseverance by LGBT+ activists throughout NI. I am extremely grateful to every single student who helped us in changing public opinion and driving NI towards a fairer and more just future for all of us.

“NUS-USI has been at the forefront of the campaign for marriage equality as part of the Love Equality coalition. These changes have only been made possible by the collaborative and supportive nature of this movement. NUS-USI will continue to work with Love Equality to ensure that the legislation operates effectively in practice and that marriage equality is truly available to all, including trans, non-binary and disabled people.”

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