Female celebrities back calls for overhaul of NI’s abortion laws

Actress Kate Beckinsale is among more than 60 female celebrities who have signed the open letter to the PM
Actress Kate Beckinsale is among more than 60 female celebrities who have signed the open letter to the PM

Hollywood actress Kate Beckinsale and Strictly Come Dancing presenter Claudia Winkleman are among dozens of female celebrities who have given their support to the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.

More than 60 female celebrities have signed an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May calling on the government to “stand with women and decriminalise abortion.”

Northern Ireland has some of the tightest restrictions on the procedure and the issue is due to be raised in Parliament on Friday as part of a campaign for change.

The letter supported by stars from the worlds of acting, television and fashion was also signed by Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker and film and TV actress Dame Emma Thompson.

It said: “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 (Theresa May) 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.”

A termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The 1967 Abortion Act which governs the rest of the UK was not extended to Northern Ireland.

A Private Members’ Bill which would decriminalise terminations in the region is due to be debated at Westminster on Friday.

Among others who signed the open letter are Claire Foy, who played the Queen in the Netflix hit drama The Crown and her successor in the role, Olivia Colman.

Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood also joined the call for reform supported by Amnesty International.

Almost 50,000 others have signed a petition calling for the decriminalisation of abortion.

Northern Ireland’s biggest political party, the DUP, which holds strong Christian values, supports restrictions on terminations and has prevented change in the past.

Labour MP Diana Johnson, who has brought forward the decriminalisation Bill, said: “The situation in Northern Ireland is grave and urgent.

“My decriminalisation Bill has support from almost every UK political party and will be in Parliament on Friday. The Government must give it the time it needs to progress.

“Women need this change. Abortion is a healthcare and human rights issue. It’s time it was treated as such.”

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “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.

“The UK Government must give time for the Bill to go through Parliament so that MPs have the opportunity to stop the criminalisation of healthcare services and support the rights of women - including those in Northern Ireland.”

• The female celebrities who have backed Amnesty International’s call for the decriminalisation of abortion are:

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