THE BLOG

The Women Of Northern Ireland Deserve Nothing Less Than Fully Funded NHS Abortion Care

23/06/2017 16:37 | Updated 25 June 2017
Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters

Over the past four years, our government has spent £3m to help women in developing countries access safe abortion services, stating 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." We couldn't agree more. But it begs the question: why won't our government extend the same rights to women from Northern Ireland?

Currently, abortion is banned in all but the most severe of circumstances. And just last year the Northern Ireland Assembly - of which the DUP are the largest party - voted against allowing abortion in cases of rape and fatal fetal anomaly, where the baby has no chance of life outside the womb.

As a result, every year hundreds of women from Northern Ireland are forced to travel to England to end a pregnancy they feel unable to continue. And on top of the anxiety and hardship caused by having to fly to another country, often on their own, leaving behind their partners and friends in order to seek a (sadly still) heavily stigmatised medical procedure, these women must not only finance their travel - but also their abortion.

These are UK citizens, paying UK taxes, yet denied the NHS-funded abortion care that is provided for women in every other part of this country. This is deeply unjust - and it's time for the government to act.

Today, a cross-party amendment to the Queen's Speech, lead by the brilliant Stella Creasy MP, has been tabled that, if passed, would end the current ban on NHS-funded abortion care for NI women.

This would be a small change to our government that would make a huge difference to Northern Irish women. It would have cost the government just £350,500 to fund abortion care for the women who travelled to England for abortion care in 2016.

Indeed, the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP, in defending his policy during a Supreme Court case brought by a young NI woman and her mother who travelled to England for abortion care, made it clear that the ban is not due to financial considerations. Instead, the current policy is out of "respect" for the democratic decisions of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Northern Irish women are UK citizens, and we are leaving them in the most desperate of situations - selling their children's Christmas toys, resorting to payday lenders, to finance a medical procedure that is fully-funded for residents in every other part of the UK, due to politics. This isn't good enough.

Jeremy Hunt should do the right thing. He didn't create this policy, but he has defended it, and he has refused to reverse it. We need politicians in Westminster to tell him to think again. Ask your MP to join our call for NHS-funding for ALL UK citizens, whether they live in Belfast or Birmingham. The women of Northern Ireland deserve nothing less.

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