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Abortion services to be provided in Northern Ireland after health department legal advice

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The services will now be allowed to go ahead (PA)

The services will now be allowed to go ahead (PA)

The services will now be allowed to go ahead (PA)

The Department of Health has said early abortion services will now be able to go ahead in Northern Ireland.

Lawful terminations will now go ahead in health and social care facilities after the department received legal advice.

New abortion regulations for Northern Ireland came into force on March 31 which allow terminations up to 12 weeks.

However, the BBC reported some health trusts had been told to not provide the service so women did not have to travel to Britain for the service.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the department said: "The timescale for addressing the necessary administrative and funding approvals required to introduce this service has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the urgent need to focus resources on preparing the health and social care system for the surge in cases.

"The interim arrangements currently in place involve abortion services continuing to be provided in England, with no costs incurred by local women availing of these services.

"This arrangement has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the severe reduction in travel options."

The statement said the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had written to the department in recent days about this current situation resulting in officials seeking legal advice.

The Belfast and Northern Trusts agreed their own temporary plans until full services were in place, but were told not to move ahead.

Family planning practitioners within the Belfast and Northern Trusts agreed to provide local services so women would not need to leave Northern Ireland to procure an early abortion.

Healthcare staff at sexual and reproductive clinics within the trusts would carry out consultations for women and issue them with abortion medication.

The first pill would be taken in a clinic and the second at home.

The Department of Health told trusts it was exploring options and asked them to await more information before they commissioned the services.

An earlier statement from the department said it understood the concerns of individual clinicians and said it was continuing to address the matter.

Belfast Telegraph