Northern Ireland

MPs call for funds for NI abortion care in England

Woman in hospital Image copyright Photo Science Library
Image caption More than 700 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England for an abortion last year

A cross-party group of MPs has called for the government to fund abortion care in England for women from Northern Ireland.

The group has tabled the motion in an amendment to the Queen's Speech.

Currently, abortion is illegal in all but the most limited circumstances in NI.

As a result, hundreds of women travel to England for legal abortion treatment every year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A woman can only have an abortion in Northern Ireland under very restricted circumstances

Supreme Court decision

Last week, the Supreme Court clarified that restrictions on NHS funded abortion care for Northern Ireland women are not due to economic or legal constraints.

Rather, they are based on the secretary of state's political considerations and respect for the local assembly.

One judge, who found in favour of granting funded services, noted it is hard to understand why paying for the abortions of Northern Irish women in England would constitute a lack of respect, when allowing these women to access them at their own cost does not.

The amendment will allow parliament to reach its own view.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Anti-abortion groups oppose changes to the law in Northern Ireland

£3m spent on safe abortions in developing countries

Over the past four years, the government has spent £3m through the Department for International Development to help women in developing countries access safe abortion services.

The government has stated that: "Women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and well-being, and be able to choose whether, when and how many children to have."

The amendment, according to the cross-party group, would ensure that all women resident in the UK have the same access to safe abortion services that the UK helps fund abroad.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, estimates that providing NHS-funded abortion care to NI citizens in 2016 would have only cost the government around £350,500.

Bernadette Smyth, founder and director of Precious Life, said, "The Supreme Court made their decision and MPs should respect democracy."

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