UK government intervenes to ensure abortion provision in Northern Ireland
The UK government has taken further legislative steps to ensure that abortion services are commissioned in Northern Ireland.
The Department of Health and the Northern Ireland Executive were last summer given a 31 March 2022 deadline to ensure access to abortion services, which they have missed.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis yesterday laid regulations in Westminster which remove the need for the Department to seek Executive approval in relation to commissioning abortion services. If the Department still fails to act, the UK government will have the power to put abortion services in place.
“Women and girls of Northern Ireland must have access to safe, high-quality abortion services in Northern Ireland, as is their right,” Mr Lewis said.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Executive and Department of Health have failed women and girls, meaning that they cannot currently access the same basic abortion healthcare that is available to women and girls in the rest of the UK.
“That’s why I am acting to remove any further barriers to delivering services. The Department of Health must drive forward the commissioning of abortion services without further delay to ensure that safe abortion becomes embedded into the health and social care system in Northern Ireland.”
Welcoming the move, Grainne Teggart, campaigns manager for Amnesty International UK, said: “This is a welcome and necessary move. Once again action from Westminster is needed to ensure that abortion rights are realised here. Commissioned services, accessible to all who need them, are long overdue. We need to see a swift end to our postcode lottery for provision.
“The health minister has failed at every opportunity to prioritise the delivery of this healthcare. We urge the Secretary of State to not wait and urgently establish and embed abortion services. Until this is done, access will remain in a fragile state.
“Our work will continue to ensure that all barriers to abortion are removed. Finally, we are getting to a place where choice will be respected and protected.”