Changes in the law

The 22nd October 2019 will be remembered by many in Northern Ireland as the date abortion was decriminalised and same sex marriage was legalised.

Abortion has been decriminalised which has enabled women in Northern Ireland to terminate a pregnancy without the fear of being prosecuted.  In fact, a case before the High Court of Northern Ireland where a mother had bought pills to assist her daughter in terminating a pregnancy was dismissed.  Between now and March 2020, however, women who wish to terminate their pregnancies will still need to travel to England for a medical termination.  The Department of Health will work alongside medical staff to help identify policies and guidelines which will bring services in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK by 1st April 2020.

Same sex marriages have also been legalised in Northern Ireland and regulations must be provided to Westminster by 13th January 2020 for this law to be enacted.  Given that couples who wish to get married must indicate their intention to do so twenty eight days before their date of marriage, the first same sex weddings may well be held in the same week as Valentine’s Day in February 2020.

Whilst there have been calls from certain political parties and religious groups to restore the power sharing executive at Stormont to deal with these changes this has not happened. It now very likely that this law will proceed which will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.