#NowforNI: The campaign to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland

Image: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland, but the #NowForNI campaign is here to change that.

On Tuesday #NowForNI campaigners protested in Westminster, London, where they delivered over 62,000 signatures from people calling for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. 

#NowForNI wants to ensure that Northern Irish women and people who can get pregnant have the right to the same medical care as women elsewhere in the UK. 

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28 women marched with suitcases towards Parliament, representing the 28 women who have to leave Northern Ireland each week to have an abortion in England, Wales, or Scotland. Among the 28 protestors were a group of female MPs and two stars from the show Derry Girls (which, as the title suggests, is set in the North). 

The protest was organised by Amnesty International and Now For Northern Ireland, a campaign organised by the We Trust Women coalition of women’s rights groups, reproductive rights campaigners and medical professional bodies calling for abortion to be legal across the UK. 

Derry Girls actress Nicola Coughlan was a part of the protest, and shared a video to Twitter, calling for others to show their support for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland using the official campaign hashtag, #NowForNI.

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Speaking to The Guardian, Coughlan added that she had very personal reasons for joining the campaign.

“Women are being treated like criminals in their own country,” Coughlan said. “I’ve had friends who have had to make this journey, it feels very personal as well.”

Coughlan’s Derry Girls co-star, actress Siobhán McSweeney, shared her “delight” in campaigning for the important issue on Twitter, saying that she had also been a part of the #RepealThe8th campaign last year, when Ireland voted to legalise abortion. 

A lot of prominent women showed their support for #NowForNI on Twitter following the powerful Westminster protest, including Outlander star Caitriona Balfe and comedians Aisling Bea and Deborah Frances-White.

Abortion was made legal under certain circumstances in England and Wales under the Abortion Act in 1967, but this law did not extend to Northern Ireland. Abortion was made legal in Ireland in 2018 following a landslide vote with a historic turn out. 

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