Early abortions are to be provided in Northern Ireland in an emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic, a charity has said.
It will cover the first nine weeks and six days of pregnancy and will be arranged through existing sexual and reproductive health services in the Belfast, Northern and Western health and social care trusts.
Informing Choices NI launched what it termed a central access point to offer a pathway into local abortion services.
We stand by women and girls and all pregnancy choicesDr Audrey Simpson
Dr Audrey Simpson, chairwoman of Informing Choices NI, said: “We are delighted to provide this interim central access point to enable access to early medical abortion services in our local health trusts.”
Accessing terminations will involve attending a local clinic to take the first abortion pill while the second set of pills can be taken at home, Dr Simpson added.
“We stand by women and girls and all pregnancy choices.
“Anyone can contact our helpline and be assured they will be offered non-directive information and, where necessary, referred on to services.”
A new legal framework around terminations took effect from the end of March.
It followed the decision of MPs to legislate for the liberalisation of Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws in the absence of the Stormont Assembly.
This morning we have launched a Central Access Point which will provide a pathway into local early medical abortion services (up to 9 weeks 6 days) in NI. This is an important step forward for local provision #thenorthisnow #COVID19 https://t.co/ZPB68w8KrI pic.twitter.com/gaywwGwojd— Informing Choices NI (@ICNI2019) April 15, 2020
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “It is vital during the current pandemic that everyone who needs this service has access to it.
“This does not remove the pressing need for measures that enable both abortion pills to be taken at home, which will ensure that people in vulnerable situations and those unable to travel have access to this healthcare.
“We repeat our call on the Government for this to be delivered urgently.”