Abortion protests take place in Belfast amid escalating political row

Pro-choice and anti-abortion activists staged separate protests in Belfast amid an escalating political row over the mandate of abortion services in Northern Ireland.

The small-scale demonstrations in the city center came after DUP First Minister Paul Gevan threatened to block the British government’s move to formally direct Stormont to roll out abortion services entirely in the area.

Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws were liberalized in 2019 after legislation passed by Westminster at a time when the transition of power had collapsed.

The British government introduced regulations to effectuate those changes to the law the following year.

However, more than a year later, the Stormont Department of Health has yet to centrally commission full services due to the impasse within the delegated department.

Early medical abortions have been offered by individual health trusts on an ad hoc basis since last year, but ongoing restrictions on providing the service have resulted in many women continuing to travel to England to access surgical abortions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The anti-abortion DUP blocked consideration of the central assignment in the Stormont Executive.

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