‘Extraordinary’ day as Northern Ireland legalises abortion, same-sex marriage

21 October, 2019

The decriminalisation of abortion and legal same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland look all but certain to be given the green light at midnight tonight.

Northern Ireland Humanists and Humanists UK, which have campaigned for decades on legal same-sex marriages and abortion in Northern Ireland, said it is an ‘extraordinary’ moment for LGBT and women’s rights. Northern Ireland Humanists looks forward to providing legal same-sex marriages as soon as the new law comes into force.

Earlier this year, the UK Parliament passed an Act that pushes through the reforms at midnight tonight. The same-sex marriage law is expected to come into force in February and abortion by April.

Same-sex marriages: Northern Ireland Humanists welcomed the move to legalise same-sex marriages. It has long campaigned for equality for same-sex couples and already conducts non-legal humanist ceremonies which have been growing in popularity amongst same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

Abortion: The UK Government’s new guidance on abortion (2021 update: this document is no longer available on the government site) in Northern Ireland states that no criminal charges can be brought against those who have had an abortion, or against doctors and other healthcare professionals who provide and assist in an abortion.

Northern Ireland Humanists supports legal and safe access to abortions for people in Northern Ireland and believes no-one should face criminal sanctions for procuring an abortion. It also supports buffer zones around clinics to protect vulnerable women and staff from harassment. Recently, it intervened in the case of Sarah Ewart, a Belfast woman who was denied an abortion in spite of having a fatal foetal abnormality.

Northern Ireland Humanists coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘Tonight will mark an extraordinary moment for LGBT people and women after decades of fighting for these important rights. For the first time, women in Northern Ireland will be able to make their own choices about their bodies without fear of being prosecuted for doing so.

‘LGBT people will be allowed to legally marry the person they love after years of being treated terribly by politicians and religious organisations who have conspired together to deny them their human rights. This is a huge day for them, and we celebrate in unity with all LGBT people. We look forward to providing legal same-sex marriages as soon as the new provisions come into force.

‘However, work has not finished: over the coming months we need to closely watch the legislation to ensure that these rights promised to women and LGBT people are delivered in full.’


For more information contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanists.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read our previous news item on the abortion and same-sex marriage reforms.

Read more about our work on abortion.

Read more about our work on same-sex marriages.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.