British Government should allow abortion pills at home, campaigners say

The UK Government should allow women in Northern Ireland to take abortion pills at home during the coronavirus pandemic, campaigners said.

Amnesty International said travelling to England was an unsafe option.

Changes ordered by Westminster while Stormont was not sitting allow unrestricted abortions in early pregnancy, but local services have not been commissioned.

Stormont’s ministerial Executive is still considering matters raised by chief legal adviser the attorney general John Larkin QC, first minister Arlene Foster said.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “The Northern Ireland Executive has failed women and girls facing crisis pregnancy during the current pandemic by not giving them the option to safely self-manage abortions at home.

“This is hugely disappointing and insulting.

“All other regions in the UK now have this provision in place because it’s the safe and right thing to do during the current health emergency.

“The Government’s own advice is to stay at home. It’s simply not safe or viable to travel.”

Powersharing partners the DUP and Sinn Fein are at either side of the abortion debate and when devolution was previously in place were unable to agree.

Coronavirus – Tues Apr 7, 2020
Coronavirus – Tues Apr 7, 2020

Mrs Foster told a Stormont committee of Assembly members there was little prospect of a meeting of minds any time soon.

Ms Teggart said: “We cannot be left behind without abortion services. This is unfair, dangerous and is putting women and girls at risk.

“We urgently need the Northern Ireland Office to stand by people here and to once again do what our devolved Government has failed to do.”

With the coronavirus emergency meaning that travelling for an abortion is neither a safe nor viable option, measures to allow women and girls to take both abortion pills at home are already in place in the rest of the UK to help them safely self-manage abortions, Amnesty said.

Despite new regulations coming into force in Northern Ireland on March 31, services have not yet been commissioned.

Amnesty has launched an urgent appeal to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to amend the new abortion regulations brought in by his Government to include provision for telemedicine service.