'Keep the pressure on' Why one group is suing the UK government over Northern Ireland's abortion laws
"Women and girls in Northern Ireland have been asked to give up their bodily autonomy until it’s politically convenient to take action."
Late last week, an abortion rights group announced plans to take the UK government to court over Northern Ireland's abortion laws.
London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign (LIARC) made their announcement during a comedy fundraiser in London's Bloomsbury Theatre.
It was there that they told the 550 attendees - and everybody who had a Twitter account - that they were tired of waiting and that they were going to bring a landmark case against the government for their failure to act on the issue.
And then yesterday, British MPs backed a plan to legalise both abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland following amendments tabled by Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn - if there is still no government in place at Stormont by October 21.
The abortion amendment passed by 332 votes to 99, with a majority of 233.
The move has been hailed as a "big step forward" from campaigners who are relieved to finally see some sort of movement on the issue that has for so long been all but ignored by the government.
For LIARC, however, the fight has not yet been won.
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The group's co-founder Cara Sanquest says that although yesterday's amendment vote was passed by a landslide, they want to "keep up the pressure" for safe and legal abortion for Northern Ireland.
And it's for that reason that they will not be dropping the case.
“We have started our judicial proceedings already," she says. “We are talking to our legal team about whether to change course and what the way forward is now, but we’re not planning on dropping [the case].
"The ultimate aim is abortion for women across Northern Ireland, and until that is actually happening we won't be giving up."
Last year, the UK's Supreme Court found that preventing a woman from making decisions about her own welfare affected “the very centre of her existence."
The court held that Northern Ireland's ban on abortion in cases of rape, sexual violence, or fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) was a violation of human rights and bodily autonomy - and yet the government, and most notably the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley, had not acted.
This changed yesterday when the vast majority of MPs voted in favour of the abortion amendment. Bradley, however, abstained.
We’re so pleased that NC10 passed in the House of Commons today. There are a lot of people to thank for getting this amendment to pass - so let’s do it. Thank you @stellacreasy for tabling this bill & for your passionate arguments for it!
— London-Irish ARC (@LdnIrishARC) July 9, 2019
“The Secretary of State did not vote last night," says Sanquest. "That’s huge. There was 72 votes in favour from Tories alone and she wasn’t one of them."
"We would like to know what the government is going to do to push this along and what the timetable is going to be like.
"We’ll do everything we can to keep the pressure on but the government now has a duty to legislate."
LIARC hit their £10,000 goal within 36 hours of setting their campaign live. A short time later, they raised another £5,000 and are now (at the time of writing) just shy of £17,500 from 666 pledges.
Any money raised will go towards the group's court fees, protection from the other side's costs, and the government's fees should they lose the case.
"Women and girls in Northern Ireland have been asked to give up their bodily autonomy until it’s politically convenient to take action," says Sanquest.
“Women have been told to wait - and we all know what waiting really means for the women who don’t have access to the healthcare they need."
You can access LIARC's fundraiser here.