Abortion: NI women to be provided access to Republic services

By Marie-Louise Connolly
BBC News NI Health Correspondent

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Image caption,
Mr Harris said he believed he had an obligation to provide such a service for women from NI

Women and girls from Northern Ireland will be able to access abortion services in the Republic of Ireland next year.

The Irish health minister made the commitment on Thursday morning.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health.

Ireland's Health Minister Simon Harris met pro-choice activists from Northern Ireland on Thursday afternoon.


He told them it is "a matter of great regret" that women on the whole island of Ireland cannot access healthcare in relation to crisis pregnancy situations.

The minister added that the landmark referendum in May ensures the country can care for women with compassion, and as a minister he has an obligation to ensure the services are available to women in Northern Ireland.

He said he hopes the bill currently going through the Dáil (Irish parliament) would become law by the end of December, allowing for terminations to take place from January.

Women from Northern Ireland would have to pay for the service.

Amnesty International said it welcomed the move.

Spokeswoman Grainne Teggert said it also "serves to underscore the absurd position that women find themselves in where they will soon board trains for these services or continue to go to the rest of the UK but still cannot access safe and legal abortions in Northern Ireland.

"We call on the Northern Ireland secretary and UK Government to prioritise women's healthcare, decriminalise abortion and ensure a framework for access is put in place."

The organisation Both Lives Matter, which advocates for better care in pregnancy crisis, said the development is worrying.

Spokesperson Marion Woods said: "Northern Ireland's abortion law means that both lives are affirmed and valued.

"Instead we would rather see money being put into funding services for those experiencing a crisis pregnancy. "

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