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:
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.
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:
For media enquireis contact Marie Stopes UK Press Office on 07769 166 516.Back to news