NI: Northern Ireland Executive agrees to issue abortion guidelines

Health Minister Simon Hamilton
Health Minister Simon Hamilton

The Northern Ireland Executive has approved guidance for health and social care professionals which will provide clarity on abortion law.

The guidance will advise on some of the factors that need to be taken into account during clinical assessment and management of women for whom termination of pregnancy may be a consideration.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “My responsibility in this area relates to ensuring that women receive the health and social care services to which they are legally entitled and that those who provide them do so in accordance with the law.

“Guidance from my Department must reflect the current law in Northern Ireland. It cannot change the law. Producing robust Guidance has proved to be a complex and time-consuming process.

“This Guidance takes account of the issues raised in my Department’s public consultation in 2013 on this subject and also reflects the considered opinions of health professionals working in this area. The new Guidance is very much the product of the views of those working in this difficult area.”

He added: “I know that this is an area of public policy where people hold differing views. My focus is on ensuring that health professionals who have to deal with extremely difficult cases have the clarity around the law that they have been asking me for.”

Mr Hamilton also confirmed he met Justice Minister David Ford to discuss plans to create an inter-departmental working group to examine the issue of abortion in the event of fatal foetal abnormality.

He said: “Whilst work is ongoing to finalise terms of reference for the working group, we both agree that it should engage with healthcare professionals and those people directly affected by fatal foetal abnormality, and take account of recent consultation on the question of legislative change, as it goes about its important work.”

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