UK government to help pay travel expenses for NI women travelling to England for abortion

Women on low incomes from Northern Ireland who seek a free NHS abortion in England will also receive state support to pay for their travel costs, the British government has announced.

Those who meet defined financial hardship criteria will be eligible for the measure, Justine Greening said.

Ms Greening, the Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, announced in the summer that the NHS in England would start to provide abortions free of charge to those women who travel from Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's strict laws on terminations result in women making the journey across the Irish Sea to access abortion.

Ms Greening said abortions had been offered free of charge since her June announcement. In a written statement to the Commons, she outlined how the arrangement would work.

She said women from Northern Ireland seeking medical support in England will be eligible for:

  • A consultation with an abortion provider in England, including an assessment of whether the legal grounds for an abortion are met;
  • The abortion procedure;
  • HIV or sexually transmitted infection testing as appropriate;
  • An offer of contraception from the abortion provider;
  • Support with travel costs if the woman meets financial hardship criteria.

"This is comparable with the service that women in England receive," said Ms Greening.

She said there would be a central booking service established giving Northern Ireland women a single telephone number to call to make an appointment.

The Conservative minority government avoided a potential Commons defeat with its abortion announcement.

Labour MP Stella Creasy had tabled an amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for "adequate funding" to ensure free access to abortions in England for women arriving from Northern Ireland.

But the Walthamstow MP withdrew her proposal after the Government confirmed it intended to fund such access.

Today, Ms Greening again made clear that the British government was not seeking to change the legal position in Northern Ireland.

"My original statement was clear this does not change the position in relation to the provision of abortions in Northern Ireland, which is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly," she added.

"That remains the case. Our proposals do not include the provision of any services in Northern Ireland."

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