Belfast Telegraph

Hunt backs healthcare access rights for women across all of UK amid abortion row

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that women across all of the UK "should have the rights to access healthcare" as the row over abortions in Northern Ireland intensified.

Mr Hunt added that a consultation on the issue was due to start shortly amid pressure from MPs to scrap charges for women from Northern Ireland who receive abortions in other parts of the UK.

Former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper challenged Mr Hunt to end the NHS charges for women from Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal except in exceptional circumstances.

Speaking at the conclusion of the Queen's Speech debate, Mr Hunt said: "I agree that all women in all parts of the United Kingdom should have the rights to access healthcare.

"I note there is a consultation on this matter about to happen, and I think the most important thing is that the voices of the women of Northern Ireland are listened to in that consultation."

Conservative and Labour MPs have urged Mr Hunt to scrap the charges in the wake of the Government's confidence and supply deal with Northern Irish party the DUP.

Labour's Ms Cooper pressed Mr Hunt over comments made by the DUP's Ian Paisley earlier in the chamber, saying: "You will have heard the words of the member for North Antrim, who said that whether or not women from Northern Ireland can get an abortion within the English NHS was a matter for the English NHS.

"So will he now, as the Secretary of State, agree to change the rules so that Northern Ireland women do not have to pay in England for an abortion if they need one?"

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