The women, including the actors Siobhan McSweeney and Nicola Coughlan, formed part of a group of 28 to symbolise the number of people who leave Northern Ireland for England and Wales each week to have an abortion.
The women carried suitcases containing sheets of paper with the names of 62,000 people who have called for the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
Coughlan, who plays Clare Devlin and is from Cork, said: “Women are being treated like criminals in their own country. I’ve had friends who have had to make this journey, it feels very personal as well.”
Westminster has a duty of care to reform the legislation prohibiting abortion in Northern Ireland, said McSweeney, who plays Sister Michael in the comedy. “It’s a sorry state of affairs when somebody from the telly has to tell [politicians] how to do their job. They have been neglecting their duty.”
Karin Smyth, the shadow Northern Ireland minister, was also among the protesters. “In England, women have had this right for 50 years, and somehow we think it’s acceptable that women don’t have the same human rights as us,” she said. “That’s unacceptable. Women are being squeezed between this argument about devolution and human rights.”
The SNP MP for Livingston, Hannah Bardell, called Northern Ireland’s abortion rights “a stain on the UK’s democracy”. She added: “Women in Northern Ireland are having their human rights routinely ignored. The fact we have women in the United Kingdom unable to access basic healthcare is an absolute scandal.”
The demonstrators held placards saying “Abortion is not a crime” as they arrived at the Northern Ireland office to deliver the letters and Amnesty International’s petition to the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley.
Counter-protesters gathered nearby holding a banner proclaiming “100,000 people are alive today because of Northern Ireland’s laws on abortion”.
There were 12 abortions in Northern Ireland last year, according to Amnesty. They are permitted if a woman’s life is at risk, or if there is a risk of serious damage to her mental or physical health.
The charity said 65% of adults in Northern Ireland supported the decriminalisation of abortion but the prime minister, Theresa May, has argued against legislation being imposed on Northern Ireland, saying local politicians should be left to represent the views of people in the country.
Abortion was made legal in the Republic of Ireland on 1 January after citizens voted overwhelmingly in favour of reforming the law.