Government Pledges To Offer Northern Irish Women Free Abortions In England
The government has announced that it intends to offer free abortions in England to women from Northern Ireland.
Pressure to change the rules has been mounting since the Tories agreed a controversial £1bn deal with the anti-abortion DUP, with more than 50 MPS backing Labour MP Stella Creasy’s call to stop charging Northern Irish women for terminations.
The law in Northern Ireland currently states that abortions are only legal if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a serious risk to her mental or physical health. Health policy is a devolved matter, meaning women have so far had to make their own private arrangements to seek abortions in England. The procedure costs around £900.
Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley asked Chancellor Philip Hammond in Parliament why “only the poor should be denied lawful abortions”, to which he replied that Justine Greening, minister for women and equalities, “either has made or is just about to make an announcement by way of a letter to members of this house explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions in England for women arriving her from Northern Ireland”.
This is the letter she sent to her colleagues:
The government’s surprise concession came ahead of a vote on the issue this afternoon. The Tories had been anticipating what could have been a damaging rebellion from backbench MPs after dozens expressed their support for Creasy’s Queen’s Speech amendment.
Thank you to MPs on all sides who supported call for change to help northern Irish women have equal access to abortion #MyPledgeHerChoice
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) June 29, 2017
The details of the funding are yet to be made clear, though Greening has reportedly said that it will come from the Equalities Office.
Extra funding from Govt Equalities Office will cover cost of women in Northern Ireland having abortions in England, says Justine Greening
— Alex Forsyth (@AlexForsythBBC) June 29, 2017
The news is certainly encouraging and worth celebrating, but it is worth remembering that while women are still forced to travel for their reproductive rights, there is a long way to go in the battle for gender equality.
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