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Kate Beckinsale, Claire Foy, Jodie Whittaker and Olivia Colman call on Theresa May to change ‘cruel’ Northern Ireland abortion law

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More than 60 women celebrities make an intervention on Northern Ireland abortion in letter to Theresa May

Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson, Claudia Winkleman, Sharon Horgan, Meera Syal and Vivienne Westwood join the call

More than 60 high profile women from across the UK and Ireland - including Kate Beckinsale, Claire Foy, Jodie Whittaker, Vanessa Redgrave, Meera Syal and Amnesty Ambassador Olivia Colman - have joined Amnesty International’s call on Theresa May to decriminalise abortion.

The letter asks the Prime Minister to give time for a Private Member’s Bill on the issue to be heard in parliament, adding that women will be waiting with “anxiety and fear as their reproductive rights are debated”.  

The celebrities write that “we’re counting on you and your government to stand with women and decriminalise abortion. Give us choice and control over our own bodies. Show women from Northern Ireland that you won’t stand for them being governed by one of the harshest and cruellest abortion laws in the world. Show us that you value and champion the rights of all women, no matter which part of the UK they’re from".

The stars – who also include Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson, Claudia Winkleman, Sharon Horgan, Gemma Arterton, Tracey Emin, Zoë Wanamaker, Aisling Bea, Noma Dumezweni, Gemma Chan, and Amnesty Ambassadors Juliet Stevenson, Deborah Frances-White and Sita Brahmachari – ask Theresa May to “do the right thing” and “champion reproductive freedom, women’s rights and healthcare”.

They join almost 50,000 others who have signed the petition calling for the decriminalisation of abortion.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said:

“Across the UK, women are asking Theresa May a simple question: to stand with them in their fight for reproductive freedom.

“Women in Northern Ireland are being failed by a lack of Government action; forced to live with the cruel reality of Northern Ireland’s strict near total abortion ban every day.

“Women across the UK, particularly in Northern Ireland where prosecutions are a reality, are counting on the Government to act.”

LETTER

Dear Prime Minister Theresa May

This Friday, women across the UK will be waiting with anxiety and fear as their reproductive rights are debated in Parliament. We’re counting on you and your government to stand with women and decriminalise abortion.

Give us choice and control over our own bodies. Show women from Northern Ireland that you won’t stand for them being governed by one of the harshest and cruellest abortion laws in the world. Show us that you value and champion the rights of all women, no matter which part of the UK they’re from.

It’s not right that the abortion law treats women as criminals for accessing a service freely available to all other women in the UK. It’s unacceptable that anyone in need of abortion would be forced through pregnancies against their will.

Your government’s scheme to provide free abortion services in England for women from Northern Ireland is welcome, but this means the only option for women is to undertake a traumatic journey to undergo the procedure alone and away from home. For some women – like those in abusive relationships – travelling isn’t an option at all. The current law is violent, cruel and degrading.

No woman takes the decision to have an abortion lightly. It’s a difficult thing for anyone to have to go through. The least we can do is create a country where women can access the service safely in a place close to home, without the threat of a prison sentence. Ireland recently voted overwhelmingly to relax their restrictive abortion law. Now it’s time for the women of Northern Ireland. They cannot be left behind.

We keep hearing the excuse that abortion in Northern Ireland is a matter for a devolved government. But this is simply not true. The UK Government is ultimately responsible for ensuring the rights of citizens – including those in Northern Ireland – are upheld. Northern Ireland hasn’t had a devolved government in almost two years. Human rights can’t go out the window in the meantime.

Women in the UK shouldn’t have their rights denied simply because of the region they live in. An affront to women in Northern Ireland hurts us all. The law must change, and there is now huge support for Westminster to decriminalise abortion. Politicians from across UK, midwives, doctors, lawyers, judges, human rights organisations like Amnesty International and - most importantly - women and girls in Northern Ireland are all calling for reform.

We ask you to hear us and to do the right thing. Champion reproductive freedom, women’s rights and healthcare. Give time for the Abortion Bill and commit to decriminalisation. 

In hope,

Aisling Bea

Amanda Byram

Anita Asante

Baroness Helena Kennedy

Bella Freud

Bisha K Ali

Bridget Christie

Bronagh Gallagher

Bronagh Waugh

Caroline Quentin

Claudia Winkleman

Claire Foy

Dame Harriet Walter

Deborah Frances-White

Dawn O'Porter

Desiree Burch

Dolly Alderton

Edna O’ Brien

Eleanor Tomlinson

Elizabeth Uviebinené

Elizabeth Day

Ellen Jones

Emma Freud

Emma Thompson

Gemma Arterton

Gemma Cairney

Gemma Chan

Indira Varma

Joan Bakewell CBE

Jodie Whittaker

Juliet Stevenson

Kate Beckinsale

Kate Nash

Kathy Lette

Kristen Scott Thomas

Leomie Anderson

Lolita Chakrabarti

Lolly Adefope

Meera Syal

Miranda Richardson

Nathalie Emmanuel

Noma Dumezweni

Olivia Colman

Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Rachel Parris

Rebecca Front

Rosie Jones

Saffron Burrows

Sara Pascoe

Sarah Dunant

Sarah Millican

Sarah Solemani

Scarlett Curtis

Shappi Khorsandi

Sharon Horgan

Sindhu Vee

Sita Brahmachari

Sophie Okonedo

Sue Perkins

Susan Wokoma

Tracey Emin

Vanessa Redgrave

Vicky Featherstone

Victoria Hamilton

Dame Vivienne Westwood

Yomi Adegoke

Zoe Wanamaker

and Amnesty International

Background: 

You can take part in Write For Rights 2018 by sending a message of support to the men and women campaigning to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland through our website.

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