Abortions for Northern Irish women to be funded in Wales

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image captionMore than 700 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England to have an abortion in 2016

The Welsh NHS will fund abortions for women from Northern Ireland, the first minister has said.

It follows a UK government decision for the NHS in England to do so after MPs threatened to rebel on the issue.

The MPs were concerned because of the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists who back the tighter abortion restrictions in Northern Ireland.

Carwyn Jones told the Senedd that Wales should offer the same service as England and Scotland.

Last week, more than 50 MPs from the major parties backed a Labour-led call for women from Northern Ireland to have access to free NHS abortions in England during the debate on the Queen's Speech - the UK government's programme for legislation.

UK ministers agreed to the move as it appeared that some Tory MPs might back the call, risking a possible defeat for Theresa May whose minority government is being supported by Democratic Unionist MPs in the Commons.

'Equality of treatment'

Northern Ireland's abortion laws are much stricter than those in the rest of the UK.

Abortions are only allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her physical or mental health.

Rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities are not circumstances in which they can be performed legally.

Prior to the announcement, women from Northern Ireland seeking an abortion could travel to England to pay for a private procedure, but were not allowed to have them free on the NHS.

Labour MP Stella Creasy had told the Commons that women were having to spend £1,400 to get an abortion in England.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood raised the issue during First Minister's Questions on Tuesday, asking if such a service would be provided and funded in Wales.

In response, Mr Jones said: "We are looking at the detail of how that can be done, but we want to make sure that the same service is on offer in Wales as it is in England and Scotland.

"There are issues, for example, such as travel costs and how you provide ongoing care following a procedure instead of people just going home, but these are issues being considered."

Ms Wood said she was "pleased" with the commitment, saying it was a matter of "equality of treatment".

"Women in the north of Ireland do not have access to legal, safe abortion there," she said.

"They are not able to decide what happens to their bodies. That isn't right.

"Plaid Cymru supports this move and I am pleased that the Welsh Government has taken this important step."

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