Northern Ireland news

Hundreds attend pro-choice rally at Belfast City Hall amid abortion laws reform calls

A pro-choice rally was held outside Belfast City Hall. Picture by Philip Walsh

HUNDREDS of people have attended a pro-choice rally outside Belfast City Hall amid renewed calls for changes to the north's abortion laws.

People Before Profit assembly member Eamonn McCann was among those who called for abortion to be legalised across Ireland.

Abortion is banned on both sides of the border, except when a mother's life is at risk.

The rally on Tuesday night, supported by trade union Nipsa and Amnesty International, was held to coincide with a debate in the Dáil on the Republic's constitutional abortion ban.

Speaking before the protest, Nipsa president Carmel Gates said abortion must be legalised in the north.

"I was delighted that my union's delegate conference this year overwhelmingly reaffirmed our resolute pro-choice stance on the question of abortion," she said.

"This reflects what is happening in wider society. Attitudes have changed dramatically but Stormont remains stuck in the past."

The rally came after an Amnesty International poll found that almost three quarters of people in the north are in favour of changes to the abortion laws.

The poll found that 72 per cent of respondents want abortion to be available in cases of rape and incest. Around 67 per cent of those surveyed supported abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Last week, former Alliance leader David Ford submitted a private member's bill seeking to reform the law around abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

A working group on the issue has already reported to the health and justice ministers, although its findings have not yet been made public.

Mr Ford said any guidelines from the group, while welcome, "will not change the law to achieve the reform needed to help women who are given the dreadful diagnosis that a longed-for child has no prospect of life".

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