On the 3rd of October 2019, the Belfast High Court delivered a landmark judgment which ruled Northern Ireland’s abortion law breaches the UK’s human rights commitments. A formal declaration of incompatibility has not been made due to the pending legislation that will decriminalise abortion if there is no deal to restore devolution in Northern Ireland by 21 October.
Heidi has always voiced her opinion and been passionate about the rights of women in Northern Ireland. In a debate on the decriminalisation of abortion in 2018, Heidi said: “I passionately believe in equality and in an individual’s right to determine their own destiny.” This belief has led Heidi to continuously campaign alongside Amnesty international and other MPs, such as Stella Creasy MP and Diana Johnson MP, who feel strongly about the rights of women.
Heidi took to twitter to welcome the news of this morning’s judgement:
in 2018, Heidi shared her own personal reasons for giving her unequivocal support to the women of Northern Ireland in a debate secured by Stella Creasy MP. Speaking in the debate, Heidi questioned the current legislation being enacted in Northern Ireland:
“Are people seriously telling me that, in a civilised world, rape, incest or a foetus that is so sadly deformed it could never live are not sufficient grounds for a woman to have the power to decide for herself—that she should not make that decision? No. Enough.”
You can view Heidi’s full speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUM0vIvD5Ig. In addition to supporting Stella Creasy MP, in October 2018, Heidi co-sponsored a Bill introduced by Diana Johnson MP which proposed the following:
- remove criminal liability in respect of abortion performed with the consent of the pregnant woman up to the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy
- to repeal sections 59 and 60 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861
- to create offences of termination of a pregnancy after its twenty-fourth week and non-consensual termination of a pregnancy
- to amend the law relating to conscientious objection to participation in abortion treatment
As well as campaigning inside parliament, Heidi has worked alongside Amnesty International to raise awareness of the reality for women in Northern Ireland who are unable to make decisions about their own body. In February, Heidi marched alongside 28 other women to demand action on abortion rights; you can read about the demonstration here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/derry-girls-and-mps-call-northern-ireland-secretary-decriminalise-abortion
The Northern Ireland Executive Formation Bill was used as a vehicle by MPs, earlier this year, to introduce changes to the laws on abortion in Northern Ireland. Heidi supported the amendment tabled by Stella Creasy MP on equal human rights for women in Northern Ireland. The amendment, NC10, proposed the decriminalisation of abortion within Northern Ireland and was passed by 332 votes to 99. Heidi voted in favour of this amendment and recognised that it was a huge step in bringing Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion in line with the rest of the UK.
On July 22nd, the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Bill passed its final stage in UK Parliament. Commitments on abortion within the Bill will become law by 21 October 2019 and full abortion regulations must be implemented by March 2020.
After years of campaigning for equal rights for women in Northern Ireland, Heidi is pleased to hear that the courts and parliament are of the same view. Heidi has repeatedly stated that the time is now for Northern Ireland; this landmark judgement paired with the legislation passed in Westminster highlights that this is finally the case.
You can read about the case that was taken to the High Court by following this link.