British government to pay for abortions for Northern Ireland women

Currently, women from Northern Ireland must pay for abortions, which are legal in the region only if the woman's life is at risk, or if there is serious risk to her physical or mental health.

This will surely reduce the financial burden for women travelling from Northern Ireland for terminations they can not obtain at home, but it does not erase this burden entirely, and nor does it address the emotional trauma of being forced to access basic healthcare far from home.

Labour lawmaker Stella Creasy who proposed the amendment, had gathered widespread support throughout the House of Commons with members of different parties, including Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives, signing up to it.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of State for Health is not legally required to provide abortion to Northern Irish women free of charge.

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Justine Greening, the Equalities Minister, then sent a letter to MPs confirming that the Government Equalities Office would foot the bill for any women from Northern Ireland who come to England in order to have an abortion.

The issue was a hard one for ministers because the Tory minority Government needs the support of the Democratic Unionist Party's 10 MPs to pass the Queen's Speech.

Supporters of the amendment argue that the amendment is not concerned with whether the Northern Irish Assembly is right or wrong in its stance on abortion, but rather addresses the inequality inherent in a situation where United Kingdom citizens and taxpayers have different healthcare rights purely on the basis of where in the country they live.

Attorney General John Larkin QC and the Department of Justice were both appealing a groundbreaking finding that abortion laws in Northern Ireland on terminations is unlawful.

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The three judges allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act obligations.

The decision arrived as Labour MP Stella Creasy attempted to force an amendment to the Queen's Speech to allow women free abortions if they arrive from Northern Ireland. Women can face up to life imprisonment for having an illegal termination.

Northern Ireland Assembly members a year ago voted against legalising abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

I am writing to you regarding Amendment (d) selected as part of the Queen's Speech debate concerning abortions performed in England for women from Northern Ireland.

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Again it demonstrates how the public, charities, families even the courts have difficulty reaching a decision and even interpreting the local abortion law. We want to ensure that the rights of vulnerable women and girls in these situations are always protected. In front of a packed courtroom, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Gillen and Lord Justice Weatherup quashed the High Court declaration.

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