Abortions for Northern Irish women free on NHS, MPs told

DUP MPs were compared to Cristiano Ronaldo after the £1.5 billion deal

DUP MPs were compared to Cristiano Ronaldo after the £1.5 billion dealVALERY SHARIFULIN TASS GETTY

Pro-choice campaigners welcomed today's concession, although some pointed out that women from Northern Ireland would still have to incur the cost and inconvenience of travelling to the United Kingdom for the procedure.

But a narrow 3-2 decision by the Supreme Court found that the British government had to respect the democratic will of laws made in Northern Ireland's Assembly, which has devolved health powers.

It ruled it was not up to local government, and not the courts, to decide on abortion law.

Things in Northern Ireland can change pretty quickly. Today, Belfast's Court of Appeal ruled abortion law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly, not judges - which overturns an earlier ruling that the current abortion laws are incompatible with human rights laws.

Anyone who performs an illegal termination could be jailed for life.

The now-adult woman, who can not be named, will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. It cross-appealed and re-introduced all of the original grounds it brought before the High Court.

"The Commission is disappointed with the judgment but retains its view that the law as it stands does not protect women and girls right to be free from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, their right to privacy or their right to freedom from discrimination". Lord Justice Gillen described it as "institutionally inappropriate and a reach too far" for the Court to interpret the law to permit abortions in certain circumstances.

It also argued that the ruling on sexual crime was unclear.

He also argued that there was no proper basis for a doctor to say a foetus had a fatal abnormality.

"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", the First Minister said at the time, in response to a question from Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP. An amendment to the Queen's Speech on the subject will not pass but it can be regarded as pressure for a change which is at the discretion of the health secretary for England Jeremy Hunt.

Finance minister Philip Hammond told parliament the government would "fund abortions in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland".

The concession came ahead of a vote on the issue in the Commons.

But in June the Supreme Court ruled that women from Northern Ireland can not get free NHS abortions in England - a decision that maintains the current arrangement of private-only abortions. Little wonder that the charity Abortion Support Network calls the criminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland "a class issue. a restriction which only hurts poor people. refugees, homeless people, people in abusive relationships, young women, old women".

Latest News