Pro-choice rally calls for campaign of civil disobedience
Hundreds of pro-choice activists have vowed to hit Northern Ireland like a "seismic wave" as they stepped up their bid for change with a Belfast rally.
A campaign of civil disobedience to the country's tight restrictions is due to be launched with a bus journey from Belfast to Derry on Thursday and protests outside the offices of the main political parties including the DUP.
A group calling itself Solidarity with Repeal held a demonstration at Belfast City Hall yesterday evening following the resounding Irish yes vote to liberalisation. It was attended by several hundred protesters bearing placards and chanting.
Speaker Eleanor Crossey Malone from Rosa, a socialist feminist movement, said: "The referendum has had a hugely invigorating effect on society in the south and it has already hit the north like a seismic wave, with Theresa May coming under immense pressure to immediately extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.
"We still have a draconian abortion ban in the north and we have a fight ahead of us."
Abortions are outlawed in nearly all cases in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK or Ireland where the prohibition is maintained following Friday's repeal vote in the Republic's referendum.
Rosa has organised action before using what it calls safe but illegal abortion pills obtained on the internet, to prevent politicians from "sweeping the issue under the carpet".
Ms Crossey Malone added: "We want to highlight how widely these pills are used."
On Thursday protesters will board buses in Belfast and head for Derry while protesting at the offices of the DUP, SDLP, UUP and Sinn Féin.
"The eyes of the world will be on us," Ms Crossey Malone.
"We won't wait until the DUP is ready. We won't wait until it is politically expedient for Sinn Fein.
"We want abortions now and we will fight until we get them."
Slogans in the crowd included a depiction of a womb with the legend 'Mind Your Own Uterus' as well as 'I am not a Vessel'.
Another claimed the DUP had been embarrassing Northern Ireland since its foundation in 1971.
Ms Crossey Malone said: "We are saying how dare the state tell us what to do with our bodies."
Protesters held images of Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist whose death after she was refused a termination during a miscarriage in the Republic electrified the repeal movement.
They travelled from Donegal, Dublin, Drogheda and Derry and chanted messages about breaking the silence and decrying the DUP's anti-abortion position.
Event organiser Fiona Ferguson said last week's vote had changed the face of Irish society.
Among those attending was Patricia Magee (34) from Belfast.
She said: "Given the referendum in the Republic, Northern Ireland is now seriously dragging behind the rest of Europe in terms of women's health care and rights and we are very frustrated that nothing is being done to address this.
"The Northern Ireland Assembly need to get their act together, they need to get back to work and start addressing this basic health care issue.
"It is not black and white, there are very many women with different circumstances who need the right health care, they should not have to go across the water for it and hopefully the momentum from the south will carry on up north and hopefully address these issues."
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