But she is feeling pressure. A Labour lawmaker, Stella Creasy, who called an emergency debate on the matter on Wednesday, wants to repeal parts of the 1861 Offenses Against the Person Act, which criminalized abortion in most cases but was lifted for women in England, Scotland and Wales in 1967. During the debate, the equalities minister, Penny Mordaunt, told Northern Ireland’s leaders to get moving on decriminalizing abortion, adding in a Twitter post, “if you don’t, we will.”
The Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley, said she supported liberalization, though she argued that the matter “should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland.”
Eleanor Crossey Malone, an organizer of ROSA, an abortion rights group, said that she was disappointed that the British court had not “intervened” to improve women’s rights in Northern Ireland. “We’re going to have to build a movement,” she said.
“We’re going to have to fight regardless, and we can’t wait” for Northern Ireland’s executive assembly to restart, she said. “We believe that if the people of Northern Ireland were making the decision, we would not be in this situation right now.”
In research on attitudes toward abortion conducted last year by Ulster University in Northern Ireland, an overwhelming majority of respondents said they supported legalizing abortion in cases of rape, incest or if a baby would not survive in the womb or shortly after birth.
Still, 60 percent of those surveyed said that abortion should be illegal if a woman became pregnant but did not want to continue with the pregnancy.