| 5°C Belfast

Northern Ireland women could seek abortion in Republic, says ex-health chief


Decisions needed: John Compton

Decisions needed: John Compton

Decisions needed: John Compton

A former health chief has said that women from Northern Ireland could cross the Irish border to access abortion services if a yes vote is passed in next week's referendum.

John Compton, the former chief executive of Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Board, said a yes vote would require the Irish government to introduce policies for women living here.

Voters in the Republic go to the polls on May 25 to decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution, which makes abortion illegal in all but exceptional circumstances.

If passed, it would see Ireland legislate for abortions for up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without restriction.

Speaking to BBC NI, Mr Compton said that the referendum added "momentum for a debate about change" in Northern Ireland.

"There is no issue to stop people going there, particularly if they had an Irish passport, there would be no issue about that at all.

"Whether or not they are going to be treated there or not, I think there would need to be policy decisions that would need to flow from whatever legislative change was made."

He added that the issue was "not straightforward" as there are two jurisdictions.

He continued: "The real issue here is there are two jurisdictions and you will have potentially two different legislative frameworks for dealing with what is a very complex problem."

His comments came as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that it was "only a matter of time" before a woman died in Ireland from using abortion drugs bought online.

He said: "If there is a No vote on Friday, I think it's only a matter of time before somebody haemorrhages or bleeds to death or dies as a result of using these pills unregulated."

The Taoiseach said that women seeking abortion services would be required to see a doctor and subsequently wait 72 hours before making a decision.

Mr Varadkar added that a doctor would have to confirm that the pregnancy was less than 12 weeks.

"It really defines how we are going to treat women in crisis for the next generation," he said.

Mr Varadkar added that every day, nine women travel to the UK and other countries to terminate their pregnancies.

Belfast Telegraph