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Pro-choice campaigners welcome government scheme to fund abortions for Northern Irish women

Tuesday 24 October 2017 Marie Stopes UK Press release, Safe abortion and post abortion care UK

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A government scheme to provide free abortion services in England for women travelling from Northern Ireland has been welcomed by campaigners including Marie Stopes UK, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas), and Stella Creasy MP.

The plans were revealed at Westminster by Equalities Minister Justine Greening, just days before the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act. The Act legalised abortion in certain circumstances in England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland.

More than 700 women a year travel to Great Britain from Northern Ireland for terminations. Up until now, they've had to pay for their own care. Following discussions with the aforementioned pro-choice campaigners, Minister Greening’s announcement moves towards addressing this major inequality.

The plans include:

  • travel and accommodation costs to be covered for women on low incomes* (*income of less than £15,276, or in receipt of income support/income-based JSA, income-related ESA or Pension Guarantee Credit);
  • procedures will be free at the point of delivery, rather than paid for upfront and reimbursed;
  • a central telephone booking system through which clients will be able to arrange an appointment with a healthcare professional in England;
  • the scheme will be in place by the end of 2017.

Responding to the announcement, Stella Creasy MP said: "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.

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 so."

Richard Bentley, Managing Director at Marie Stopes UK, said: "This is a momentous step forward for women in Northern Ireland. We’ve been heartened that the UK Government has not only acknowledged the inequality Northern Irish women seeking abortion have faced for the last 50 years, but is taking positive steps to address it.

"Ultimately, we believe Northern Irish law should change to ensure women have the right to access services in their home country. Until that becomes reality, we look forward to working closely with government so that women travelling from Northern Ireland can receive the funded NHS care they deserve."

Women and pregnant people who need information and support can call the FPA's helpline in Northern Ireland on 0345 122 8687. Or they can contact the Abortion Support Network for financial assistance on 07897 611593.

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

If you need to access abortion care services in England you can contact the following abortion care providers, where you will be able to access services for free:

  • Marie Stopes UK: operates over 70 clinics in England, and their advice line is open 24 hours. Call them on 0345 300 3737 to book an appointment or make an enquiry.
  • British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas): operates over 70 abortion care clinics around England. You can call their 24 hour phone line on 03457 30 40 30 to book an appointment or make an enquiry. If you are deaf or hard of hearing with a textphone, call the bpas textphone on 0345 365 1450.
  • National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS): runs clinics in Birmingham, Stoke, Greater Manchester and Greater London. To book an appointment or make an enquiry call 0333 004 6666.
  • For counselling and support services in Northern Ireland, you can call FPA (the Family Planning Association) on 0345 122 8687 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays). They will be able to give you information and support, and you can book an appointment for pregnancy choices counselling at their office in central Belfast.
  • If you are struggling to access funding for travel or accommodation, Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance and confidential, non-judgemental information on travel. You can call them on 07897 611593.

For media enquireis contact Marie Stopes UK Press Office on 07769 166 516.

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