Northern Irish women to be given free access to abortions in England

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Jasmine Andersson
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The UK government have revealed plans to provide free abortion services to people from Northern Ireland in England.

The motion, initially tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy, has been realised by Equalities Minister Justine Greening.

The Conservative cabinet member said in a written statement that women will access the service in the same way that English women do.

“Women from Northern Ireland will access the service through existing providers of abortions in England,” writes Greening. 

“The funding will be accessed via a grant scheme that will be administered by the Department of Health. The cost of this service will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding provided by HM Treasury. A small number of procedures will continue to be provided through the NHS where this is necessary for medical reasons,” she added.

Repeal the 8th protest
Repeal the 8th protest

At present, Northern Irish women can be charged around £900 to have a termination in other parts of the UK. 

And the need for abortion equality is becoming a more pressing urge than ever as the Abortion Act celebrates its fiftieth birthday this Friday.

The landmark act saw terminations legalised in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland. 

Due to this, Northern Ireland has been daubed as the country with the most restrictive reproduction rights in Europe.

Stella Creasy
Stella Creasy

Although Walthamstow MP Creasy has welcomed the announcement, she said that abortion rights for Northern Irish women will be fully realised when they are readily available in their home nation.

“It has been a shame on our country for too long that women in Northern Ireland were denied their basic human right to control what happens to their own bodies - today we took a step forward in addressing that injustice, with a scheme that will give them support to come to England for healthcare assistance, and I want to thank all those involved in making that happen for their work bringing this proposal to reality,” wrote Creasy in a statement on her Instagram page.

“But today we also pledge to keep standing with them until they have equal access to abortion services in Northern Ireland itself - our sisters need to have their human rights to be upheld and we won’t give up until they have.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster is anti-abortion

‘‘We welcome the announcement from Justine Greening that funding will be made available towards the cost of flights and accommodation for some people who travel from Northern Ireland to Great Britain to terminate a pregnancy,” said Danielle Roberts from Alliance for Choice in a shared statement with Feminist Fightback.

“We must not forget that travelling will still be impossible for many people such as those with caring responsibilities, those with a controlling partner, and people who are undocumented. While this decision will help some people, we will continue to campaign for free, safe, legal, and local abortion care for everyone who wants or needs," she added.

As well as this, London-based feminist collective Feminist Fightback queried the proposal’s ability to help migrant women seeking to terminate a pregnancy.

"The new system of NHS charges and passport checks means that migrant women may be prevented from accessing abortion and maternity services, with huge risks to their health, and even their lives,” said Rosa Symonds, a representative from the group.

“Fifty years after the Abortion Act was passed, those with the 'wrong' immigration status may be forced to seek unsafe methods to end an unwanted pregnancy,” Symonds added.

Images: Rex Features