Comment by Victoria Johnston

Abortion has hit the headlines again in the past few weeks after news emerged from the USA that the governors of the state of Alabama have signed a bill banning abortion in all circumstances and ruled that any doctor caught performing the procedure could face 99 years in prison. 
This has resulted in much backlash from feminists and pro-choice activists across the world who are outraged at the adverse effect that this ban could have on women in Alabama, including many in Britain who have pledged support to help those in USA whilst turning a blind eye to what is currently happening in a smaller region of the UK, Northern Ireland. 
Northern Ireland is unlikely to see effective change regarding abortion until a government is established in Stormont. 
As it stands Northern Ireland still has no devolved government and unless talks progress further and a government is formed we will not see a change in abortion legislation, marriage equality, or language rights.  We will not see effective change in Northern Irish society until the parties reconcile and set aside their differences and work together to achieve a shared future.  
Those in Westminster have the power to approve laws in Northern Ireland such as those concerning marriage equality and reproductive rights but have instead opted not to. Perhaps, Theresa May and the Conservative Party are more concerned with keeping the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) their partners in government happy as Brexit negotiations continue. 
Unlike the rest of the UK where abortion was legalised in the 1967 Abortion Act.  Northern Ireland is 52 years behind the rest of the UK in terms of abortion law. 
If a woman from Northern Ireland is caught procuring an abortion she could face up to 14 years in prison under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, a Victorian law that is older than the light bulb and older than Northern Ireland as a state. 
For now, women from Northern Ireland will still have to travel to access abortion whether that be across the Border into the Republic of Ireland or across the Irish sea to clinics in England.  This is not good enough. Illegal and unsafe abortion will still happen in Northern Ireland, pregnant people will still risk their lives in order to terminate a pregnancy, abortion pills will still be ordered via Women on the Web and taken illegally and in secret. Just because abortion is illegal does not mean it is not happening. 
Ultimately, we are being failed by those in power. We are being failed by a Stormont stalemate that should have been resolved months ago, we are being failed by politicians who have only began talks in recent weeks following on from the tragic death of Lyra McKee.
We are being failed because we are not being listened to despite the fact that public opinion is changing in Northern Ireland.  
A survey commissioned by Ulster University as part of the 2016 Northern Ireland Life and Times survey found that “where there is a serious threat to the woman’s physical or mental health if she continues the pregnancy, 76 per cent of those surveyed believe abortion should definitely or probably be legal”. 
Destiny is in our demographics and these demographics show that in the near future politicians must side with the public and legalise abortion in Northern Ireland. How many must suffer before change is achieved?