NI: Scotland to explore providing free abortions to Northern Ireland women

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Human rights groups have welcomed a commitment from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to explore the possibility that Northern Ireland women could access free abortions through NHS Scotland.

Women from Northern Ireland currently have to pay to access abortion in Great Britain.

The UK Supreme Court is currently hearing an appeal by a mother and daughter who are fighting for abortions to be available to Northern Ireland women for free in England.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in NHS Scotland and whether any improvements can be made.”

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director
Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director, said: “Responsibility for delivering healthcare to women and girls in Northern Ireland sits squarely with the Northern Ireland Executive.

“But, given the utter human rights failure of Northern Ireland’s Ministers to provide free, safe and legal abortion healthcare for women and girls here, we welcome the commitment of Scotland’s First Minister to explore what can be done via NHS Scotland.

“The UN Human Rights Committee recently ruled that Northern Ireland’s laws prohibiting and criminalising abortion constitute a human rights violation. The Scottish Government could help lessen the harsh financial impact of that violation by allowing women from Northern Ireland to access abortions free of charge on the NHS.

“While this would be a welcome and helpful step, it is no substitute for the Northern Ireland Executive putting its own house in order with respect to significant reform of our scandalous abortion laws.

“The fact that Scotland’s First Minister is now exploring what she can do to help women and girls from Northern Ireland is an indictment of the failure of Northern Ireland own’s First Minister, Executive colleagues and the Assembly.”

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