Women from Northern Ireland to receive free abortions in Scotland

Women from Northern Ireland are to be offered free abortions on the NHS in Scotland, it was confirmed today.

The Scottish government confirmed the measure today, saying that "details will be set out shortly how that can be achieved".

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland without exceptional circumstances, with hundreds of women thought to be charged by the NHS each year to travel elsewhere in the UK for surgery.

Last week the British government backed funding for women from Northern Ireland to access free abortions in England, while Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones did the same today.

New powers over abortion were devolved to Holyrood as part of the 2016 Scotland Act and Nicola Sturgeon said she would look into giving Northern Ireland women access to NHS abortions in Scotland without prohibitive costs.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The First Minister has already made clear that the Scottish Government would look into the provision of abortion in Scotland to women from Northern Ireland.

"The Scottish government's view is that abortion should be part of standard healthcare for all women, and available free from stigma.

"The Scottish government believes that a woman from Northern Ireland, in Scotland, should be able to access an abortion for free on the same basis as women in Scotland and we will set out shortly how that can be achieved."

The issue was originally raised by the Scottish Greens at First Minister's Questions last year.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "I'm pleased the Scottish Government agrees with Greens that the stress and costs that women in Northern Ireland face are unacceptable.

"Scotland has a chance to provide much-needed support. This is about trusting women to decide what is best for them.

"I look forward to the public health minister replying to me with details of how Scotland will provide free access to abortion for women from Northern Ireland, and I will continue to urge Scottish ministers to consult on decriminalising abortion."

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