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Global conference on abortion being held in Belfast

Speakers Mariene Gerber Fried, right, and Dr Sylvia Estrada-Claudio at the global abortion conference in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

A GLOBAL conference on 'abortion and reproductive justice' attended by delegates from 25 countries began in Belfast yesterday.

The two-day event, 'Abortion and Reproductive Justice - the Unfinished Revolution II' is examining access to abortion, activism and abortion politics across the world.

It is the first time an international conference on this theme has been held in the UK and Ireland and builds on the debut event held in Canada in 2014.

Around 135 delegates are discussing the main issue of "how does abortion sit within the reproductive justice framework".

Newly elected Green party assembly member Clare Bailey opened the event yesterday, which is being hosted by the Institute of Research in Social Sciences at Ulster University.

Keynote speakers include Marlene Gerber Fried, a long-time 'reproductive rights activist' from the United States and doctor and author Dr Sylvia Estrada-Claudio from the Phillippines.

Ms Bailey said the conference "clearly demonstrates that the issue of abortion in Northern Ireland will no longer be hidden".

"Abortion continues to be an everyday issue for women in Northern Ireland, with over two women per day travelling to England to receive healthcare that is currently denied to them locally.

"It is a disgrace that women are being criminalised through our archaic laws for purchasing drugs such as mifepristone which are on the World Health Organisation Model List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system. Northern Ireland's legal system cannot deal with the situation.

"As an activist, I will continue to volunteer as an escort for Marie Stopes. The clinic is in my constituency of South Belfast and I will not shy away from that.

"I trust women. I will be working to ensure that women are not criminalised when accessing healthcare, including safe, legal abortions, when they need it."

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