Simon Harris to extend abortion service to citizens of North

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said his concern for women’s health does not stop at the border and he will be extending access to abortion services to residents of the North.

The Government is working to roll out abortion services across the country from January of next year after May’s referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

Abortion remains illegal in the North unless the risk to the mother’s health is severe.

However, Mr Harris told an event in Belfast that his concern for a woman’s right to access health services in crisis pregnancies situations does not stop at the border.

Speaking at Féile an Phobail last night, which Sinn Féin president Mary-Lou McDonald also attended, Mr Harris said:

Last year, at least 919 women from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to access abortion services. This is a reality for women in Northern Ireland and one that I really hope their politicians address.

“In recent months, the Irish people have addressed this issue through our referendum to repeal the eighth amendment. I now intend to bring in legislation to give effect to this decision in the autumn.”

In June, a Supreme Court ruling found that abortion legislation in the North is incompatible with human rights laws.

Mr Harris said: “Whilst I respect the issue of abortion laws in Northern Ireland is a matter for public representatives in Northern Ireland, I really hope this is addressed in the near future.

In the meantime, I intend to ensure women from Northern Ireland can access such services in the Republic, just like they can access other health services here.

Last month, more 170 politicians from across the spectrum in Britain and Ireland called on the British government to reform the North’s abortion laws in the absence of a Stormont Assembly.

The group, including Irish TDs and senators, UK Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem MPs and peers, as well as Stormont Assembly members, said nearly 1,000 women were forced to travel to Britain for safe terminations last year, while others had to take illegal abortion drugs at home.

They have called for changes as they say is a matter of protecting women’s human rights and honouring the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Féin’s leaders, Michelle O’Neil and Mary Lou McDonald, signed the letter calling for the changes in the legislation.

However, the DUP, are strongly opposed to any relaxation of abortion laws in the North.

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