Women in Northern Ireland will now have access to terminations on the NHS in England, chancellor Philip Hammond announced today (29 June).
The announcement was made in the House of Commons ahead of a scheduled vote this afternoon on an amendment put forward by Labour MP Stella Creasy intended to make the service available to Northern Irish women.
The move is seen as a concession to a cross-party group of MPs, lead by Creasy, to stave off an expected Tory rebellion which would play badly in the first week of the Conservative and DUP alliance.
The recent attention on the DUP and their regressive views on social issues such as abortion has highlighted once more the dire state of reproductive rights in the province.
Many on the British mainland were previously unaware that the 1967 abortion act was never extended to Northern Ireland and campaigners are hoping to capitalise on this renewed focus.
Mara Clarke, director of the Abortion Support Network, which offers financial assistance to women in need of abortions on both side of the border in Ireland, said: “This is an incredible step forward. Anyone travelling for an abortion will save a minimum of £330, thanks to today’s announcement.”
The announcement comes on a busy day for Northern Ireland abortion campaigners after they had already been dealt a blow in the shape of the Belfast Court of Appeal’s decision not to roll back the strict abortion ban in limited circumstances.
Despite the good news, campaigners are keen to stress that the fight is far from over.
Clarke added that Northern Irish women will still “have to pay for flights and accommodation, childcare and time off work.
“Not to mention the fact that there will still be women who aren’t in a position to travel and still need abortion access in their own locality.
“Last year women from NI made up 20% of the 801 callers to ASN’s helpline. While this is hugely helpful, we won’t be hanging up our phone any time soon.”
The proposed amendment to the Queen’s Speech was due to take place at 5pm today. It is not clear if that will now proceed, in light of Mr Hammond’s statement.
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