STATEMENT: NHS funding for Northern Irish women in need of abortion [29/06/2017]

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign welcomes announcement of NHS funding for NI women in need of abortion.

Today’s announcement by the Chancellor Philip Hammond to fund abortions for the women of Northern Ireland on the NHS in England is a hugely progressive step.

Mr Hammond announced the policy change in the House of Commons, ahead of a vote on an amendment to the Queen's Speech this evening.

A ban on terminations in Northern Ireland means women must travel to the rest of the UK to access private abortion services, at a cost of up to £2,000. This has the most profound effect on women unable to access the funds quickly. Despite paying national insurance they are not entitled to NHS care. Often they are forced to turn to charity or take out loans from unscrupulous money lenders in order to fund a procedure, which is available for free on the NHS to other UK residents.

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, along with Labour MP Stella Creasy, and generation of campaigners across the UK and Ireland, has been working tirelessly to fight this injustice. The Chancellor’s announcement appears to indicate that our hard work is paying off. However, we urge Mr Hammond and his colleagues to provide us with more details and work with us to ensure women from Northern Ireland are properly supported in this regard.

Barbara Davidson from the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign said: “We are delighted the government has finally agreed to end decades of discrimination and allow women from Northern Ireland to have abortions on the NHS in England.

“This is a significant and welcome milestone on the road to safe and legal abortion for all women in Northern Ireland and an acknowledgment that Westminster has finally heard our calls for reform. Whilst this will not prevent women in Northern Ireland having to travel for abortions, it will relieve some of the financial pressures they face.”

Mara Clarke, Director of the Abortion Support Network, which offers financial assistance to NI women said: “This is an incredible step forward. Anyone travelling for an abortion will save a minimum of £330, thanks to today’s announcement.

“However, they will still have to pay for flights and accommodation, childcare and time off work. Not to mention the fact that there will still be women who aren’t in a position to travel and still need abortion access in their own locality.

“Last year women from NI made up 20% ofthe 801 callers to ASN’s helpline. While this is hugely helpful, we won’t be hanging up our phone any time soon.”

Labour’s Stella Creasy had put forward an amendment to the Queen’s Speech, which called on the government to provide NHS funded abortions to NI women in England. A vote was due to take place at 5pm today. It is not clear if that will now proceed, in light of Mr Hammond’s statement.

The London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign would like to thank Ms Creasy for her effective leadership on this issue. Ms Creasy has spoken out for the 1000s of Northern Irish women who have been treated as second class citizens for decades. Without Ms Creasy, today’s announcement by the Chancellor may not have happened. We look forward to continuing to work with her in the future.  

Ends

Notes for Editors:

Media spokespersons: Contact Cara Sanquest 079 5556 6182 or Barbara Davidson on 079 6814 5691.

To be added to our press list please email londonirisharc@gmail.com or contact us via social media at @LdnIrishARC orwww.facebook.com/londonirishARC

To be added to our press list please email londonirisharc@gmail.com or contact us via social media at @LdnIrishARC orwww.facebook.com/londonirishARC

What is the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC)?

The Abortion Rights Campaign is a movement for choice and change in Ireland. We aim to promote broad national support for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution by the Irish Parliament; to push for the introduction of extensive abortion legislation by the Northern Ireland Assembly; and to ensure the health and rights of women in pregnancy are protected in line with international human rights standards. - See more at: http://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/about-arc/#sthash.puJwbg7J.dpuf

What is London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign?

We are the London based branch of ARC, representing the Irish diaspora in London. We launched in September 2016, with a march to the Irish embassy to represent the 77 women a week who travel to England from Ireland for abortions. We are now 600 strong – and have the support of numerous other networks including The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment and the Repeal Project.