Midwives have come out in support of MPs who have put forward an amendment to the Queen’s speech which would allow women from Northern Ireland to receive abortions on the NHS in England.
As the Conservative government closes its deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – who have long taken a hard line on abortion – a coalition of MPs coordinated by Labour’s Stella Creasy and Peter Bottomley of the Conservatives, has put forward an amendment focusing on abortion rights.
In the amendment, Ms Creasy highlighted ‘hard-won progress’ on issues such as inclusive sex and relationship education or access to services for same-sex couples as things that should be protected, along with the risk of other issues being ignored by the new government.
She said: ‘It is vital we do not let the fight for equality be sidelined, as it is clear without action Northern Irish women will pay the price for the government doing a deal to stay in power.’
While the amendment is unlikely to pass through Parliament, the MPs expressed hope it would inspire progressive MPs to stand up for progressive policies in the future. The supreme court recently ruled that women in Northern Ireland were not entitled to free abortions in England.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) came out in support of the amendment, but were cautious about its limitations in giving Northern Irish women the same rights as women elsewhere in the UK.
RCM director for Northern Ireland Breedagh Hughes said: ‘We welcome the proposed amendment as it would end the socio-economic aspect of access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland, especially those women who are pregnant with a baby with an anomaly for whom the cost of travelling to England is very expensive.
‘It won’t however solve the problem of women wishing to terminate their pregnancy at home so that they can be cared for by a medical team that they are familiar with.’
Amendments to the Queen’s speech to be voted in will be chosen this week. Prime Minister Theresa May has previously said to Tory MPs that the DUP would not influence Conservative social policy.
Additional reporting by Ben Clarke