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Legislative change on abortion required in the north - Michelle O'Neill

5 June, 2018 - by Michelle O'Neill

Speaking today Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O'Neill said legislative change on abortion is required in the north.

Michelle O’Neill said:

“The issue of abortion is a very sensitive one. It’s an emotive issue. It’s an issue that demands compassion. But it’s also obvious that current legislation north and south is failing women and the status quo is untenable. So it’s an issue we have to deal with but we have a responsibility to do so in a compassionate and caring manner.

“The result in the Repeal the 8th referendum delivered positive change and will help to create a society which is more compassionate and caring and which at its core trusts women.

“Sinn Féin played a leading role in the debate and in the campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment.

“As I walked into Dublin Castle to hear the referendum result declared I was struck by the number of people who commented on the need for similar change in the north. And it is clear that women in the north can’t be left behind.

“So, the focus has shifted to the north and to what comes next here. The campaign for change in the south was conducted in a responsible, mature and respectful way and correctly focused on the need for appropriate, modern and compassionate healthcare services for women.

“Those appropriate, modern and compassionate healthcare services for women must be available for all women in Ireland, north and south.

“So, it’s time for change. Therefore, Sinn Féin supports legislative change in the north. The first step in this process must be to end the criminalisation of women and through the repeal of Sections 58 & 59 of the archaic Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

“I welcome the initiative taken today to put this issue on the political agenda at Westminster. It an essential step in bringing an end to the criminalisation of women in very difficult and traumatic circumstances under 150-year-old Westminster laws. Legislative change is required.

“That legislative change should be developed through an informed and respectful debate in which families and medical professionals can share their sometimes harrowing experiences and know that they are being listened to.

“The Together for Yes campaign provides an important and powerful model for engaging in this debate. In line with this I am currently engaged in an intensive round of meetings with women and with groups who are campaigning for positive change.

“And a result of that debate, legislative change should be brought about by locally elected MLAs and should be brought about in the Assembly.

“However due to the anti-rights agenda of the DUP we do not have an Assembly and executive to make the required legislative changes at this time.

“In the absence of a local assembly and executive the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference should meet as a matter of urgency under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement to deliver on rights and equality issues including the critical issue of women’s right to appropriate, modern and compassionate health care.” 

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