United Kingdom government to give Northern Irish women abortion funding

Ray Weaver
June 30, 2017

As highlighted by the A & B case in the Supreme Court last week, those who travel from Northern Ireland, despite being United Kingdom taxpayers, aren't eligible for NHS funding for these abortions under current law - something which Stella Creasy's amendment sought to change.

So the key demand in the amendment is for Jeremy Hunt to change the law on this matter, giving Northern Irish women access to abortion in NHS England and Wales.

A Labour source said of Ms Creasy's amendment: "It's likely Stella's amendment will be treated as a matter of conscience which would essentially mean a free vote".

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of State for Health is not legally required to provide abortion to Northern Irish women free of charge.

"I am happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in NHS Scotland and whether any improvements can be made", the First Minister said at the time, in response to a question from Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP.

Today's announcement will not entirely allay concerns about the potential impact on women's rights arising from the deal between the Conservative minority government and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The court said the case should now go to the Supreme Court.

The decision may yet be appealed, but whatever the outcome it will do nothing for the vast majority of women who do not have a diagnosis of a fatal foetal anomaly or who have not been sexually abused - but who are simply trying to make the choice that is right for them and their families when faced with an unplanned pregnancy or a pregnancy they can not continue'.

It comes after a campaign from more that 50 MPs who backed a call for Northern Irish women to have abortions for free in England - they now have to pay.

Because of this, Northern Irish women have always been forced to travel to mainland Britain in order to receive abortion services.

The three judges allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act obligations.

The letter followed the Speaker selecting an amendment to the Queen's Speech relating to access to abortions. Instead, they have said, the decision on abortion legislature falls on Stormont, Northern Ireland's government.

"I am devastated at today's court ruling", she said. The maximum criminal penalty under the Victorian Offences against the Person Act 1861 - life imprisonment for both the woman undergoing the abortion, and for an individual who assists her - is the harshest in Europe and amongst the harshest in the world. Will Parliament protect the rights of women in Northern Ireland when the courts have not?

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