Northern Irish women will be allowed to access abortion in Republic

Ireland’s Health Minister gave further assurances on Thursday that women from Northern Ireland will be able to access abortions in the Republic.

Simon Harris made the commitment during a meeting with Amnesty International, Sinn Fein and a number of other pro-choice groups from Northern Ireland.

Mr Harris said it is “a matter of great regret” that women on the whole island of Ireland cannot access healthcare in relation to crisis pregnancy.

Mr Harris first made the commitments to Northern Ireland in August, just months after the landslide abortion referendum in the Republic, saying: “I intend to ensure women from Northern Ireland can access such services in the Republic, just like they can access other health services here.”

It is hoped the new Irish legislation will come into effect by January, to begin allowing for terminations for women both sides of the border, however women from Northern Ireland will be required to pay.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty UK’s Northern Ireland campaigns manager, said that women in Northern Ireland should not be forced to travel for reproductive care.

“We welcome the minister’s commitment to ensure access to abortion services for women from Northern Ireland,” she said.

“However, it serves to underscore the absurd situation we find ourselves in, where women from Northern Ireland will soon be able to travel by train to have an abortion, but still won’t be able to access safe and legal abortions at home.

“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.”

Sinn Fein representatives Megan Fearon and Louise O’Reilly hosted the delegation which included Alliance for Choice, Royal College of Midwives, and The Family Planning Association

Megan Fearon said: “The meeting with the minister for health was very constructive for us and for the campaign groups and service providers.

“The campaign groups outlined their concerns to minister Harris and the minister reiterated his commitment to ensuring access for all women on the island to abortion care.

“Sinn Fein will continue to keep this issue to the fore, north and south.

“We will work hand in hand with campaign groups and service providers to ensure access to quality and safe abortion care for all women on this island.”

The Alliance Party’s Paula Bradshaw likewise gave a cautious welcome to the news, adding there was no excuse for not legislating to clarify the law in Northern Ireland.

“Abortion is a conscience issue for Alliance but I welcome the clarification from the Republic’s Health Minister, Simon Harris TD, that from next year women will be able to travel across the border to seek an abortion within the laws which will come to apply there, albeit with a charge,” Ms Bradshaw said.

“Nevertheless, regardless of our personal views on the topic, the issue remains the law in Northern Ireland lacks clarity and is recognised to be in breach of global human rights standards.”

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

Last year, at least 919 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to access abortion services