Abortions will now be free for women in Northern Ireland when they travel to England to have them, the government has announced following a vote on the Queen’s speech.
In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal with very few exceptional circumstances and the DUP – who currently have a deal with the Conservative government – are staunchly against the practice. However, in a first test of their agreement, MPs voted in favour of the government funding Northern Irish women who want to come to England to have an abortion.
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The decision was welcomed by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), who see abortion as a healthcare matter which should be decriminalised everywhere and made available to all women who need it.
RCM director for Northern Ireland Breedagh Hughes said: ‘The RCM is very pleased with this announcement and looks forward to seeing the details of this crucial agreement. This is a significant step forward for women in Northern Ireland.
‘We already know that women in Northern Ireland are purchasing abortion pills illegally online as many cannot afford to travel to the UK to receive the medical treatment they need.
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‘This commitment will not only go towards elevating some of the costs involved, but will most importantly offer women an avenue to accessing crucial healthcare and hopefully help them during what can be an extremely distressing time.’
A previous Supreme Court ruling had seen judges rule that there was no legal call for abortions to be made available in England for Northern Irish women, which was labelled as ‘extremely disappointing’ by the RCM.