Opinion. Northern Ireland finally lifts its ancient abortion ban and legalises same-sex marriage. A positive outcome that reveals a troublesome background.
Welcome to the 21st century, Northern Ireland – in a quite literal sense. Northern Ireland made a major step regarding women*’s and LGBTQIA* rights, when the British Parliament legalised both same-sex marriage and abortions there. While we can definitely celebrate and welcome the changes with open arms, its political and historical background leaves a bitter aftertaste.
The abortion ban has been there since the 19th century, for 158 years, a timespan that stretched over six British monarchs. During this time Northern Ireland had some of the strictest abortion laws, banning it in almost every case, including rape and incest. The reform is long overdue, but it only happened because of a sort of political paralysis currently happening in Northern Ireland. Before, the government of the religiously shaped country stuck to its ancient laws and blocked any attempts at change. Now, the reform did not take place due to a change of minds of Northern Irish politicians. Instead the British Parliament in London made use of the fact that the government in Belfast has basically been inactive for almost three years because the parties could not agree enough to fulfill the political prerequisites. After the Northern Irish government failed to make a unanimous decision regarding the new laws, the changes induced by the British parliament took place.
Why is this way of accomplishing positive goals problematic? Because the conservative part of the population that would probably disagree with these changes anyway, may see more justification to do so: Northern Ireland, being split into people that associate either with the Republic of Ireland or the UK, could see this as a decision that is not made by them, i.e. by their own votes. Changing the laws of a country does not change its culture. While there are many residents welcoming the changes, others refuse to accept them. The fact that the new laws came from England instead of the Northern Irish government will surely harden the way to not only change the laws but the minds of some people.