Until now, hundreds of women have had to travel from Northern Ireland to England to receive abortion services at private clinics, which can cost from £400-£2,000, not including travel or loss of work, rather than for free through the NHS. Now, the UK government will provide these women access to abortions cost-free, via the National Health Service.
The Guardian reports that the issue was brought to a head by a Supreme Court decision in mid-June, which ruled on the case of a 15-year-old girl who was forced to travel from Northern Ireland to Manchester to seek the services of a private clinic. The cost of her trip was funded by a charity called the Abortion Support Network.
The health secretary has a policy of refusing to pay for services for citizens of Northern Ireland that are illegal in that region, and Northern Ireland has extremely restrictive abortion laws. According to the Independent, the laws have no exceptions for rape, incest, or serious fetal abnormalities. The court upheld a previous decision that the unnamed girl’s abortion should not be funded by the NHS, leading to protests and Creasy’s amendment.
“UK taxpayers are currently being denied access to abortion services in England and Wales, which is a matter for English and Welsh MPs to decide,” MP Stella Creasy told the Independent.
Chancellor Hammond and Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening announced that as of today, grants will be issued to pay for the cost of abortion services for women in Northern Ireland, with money from the government equalities office.
Creasy is celebrating the win on Twitter, though she writes that there is still a lot of work to do for women who need abortion services at home in Ireland: