Thousands of anti-abortion protesters march on Northern Ireland parliament

DUP leader Arlene Foster joins crowd for silent demonstration 

Zamira Rahim
Saturday 07 September 2019 00:10
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Thousands of people stage a demonstration at Stormont
Thousands of people stage a demonstration at Stormont

Thousands of people have protested against changing strict abortion laws in Northern Ireland.

The demonstrators marched to Stormont, the seat of the Northern Irish assembly.

Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), was among the crowd.

They stood at the building’s gates in silence, with heads bowed and holding lights, for six minutes, to represent the six counties in Northern Ireland.

In July, MPs in Westminster passed a law which is expected to liberalise access to abortion in the country.

It comes into effect if the Stormont executive, which is suspended, does not return by 21 October.

The law requires new regulations to be in place by the end of March 2020.

Abortion in Northern Ireland is currently only legal in certain exceptional circumstances, including if the life of the mother needs to be saved.

”How can it be that Northern Ireland will soon be the only part of Great Britain and Ireland where terminations are to all intents and purposes outlawed?” Heidi Allen, the independent MP, said during a House of Commons debate on liberalisation.

Abortion was legalised in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland after residents overwhelmingly voted for the option in a referendum.

“We organised this event which was open to people of all religions, all political persuasions and all cultural backgrounds so we could come together and unite on this issue, and stand in silent protest,” Sarah Crutchley, the Stormont protest’s organiser, said.

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“We want our silence to say two things: that first, we, as the people of Northern Ireland, were not asked about this change in legislation, and that it actually goes against public opinion here, and that every sitting MP from Northern Ireland voted against this change, and that the unborn children, they have no voice, they cannot speak so they were not considered in this legislation.”

An academic counting those who took part in the protest estimated numbers at 4,000, while later, event organisers said there were in excess of 20,000 people at the demonstration.

Pro and anti-abortion protests are expected in Belfast on Saturday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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