Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Hunt slammed over Northern Ireland abortion funding claim

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt made the claim during a hustings event on Monday (David Mirzoeff/PA)
Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt made the claim during a hustings event on Monday (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has been slammed for taking credit for securing funding for women in Northern Ireland to travel to England to get abortions.

In 2017, Labour MP Stella Creasy tabled a parliamentary amendment that led to the funding being made available by the Government.

The 1967 Abortion Act which governs the rest of the UK was not extended to Northern Ireland. A termination is only permitted in the region if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

During a hustings event earlier this week, Jeremy Hunt, a former Health Secretary, was asked whether he would extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland if he became Prime Minister.

"As Health Secretary, I authorised funding for women in Northern Ireland who weren't able to get abortions," he claimed.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service dismissed claim, pointing out that the Government Equalities Office provided the funding.

 “We were very surprised indeed to see Jeremy Hunt claim that he authorised funding for women from Northern Ireland to access abortion care in England when he was secretary of state for health," a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.

"The funding for this scheme was made available by the Government Equalities Office in 2017, when the government’s hand was finally forced on this issue following a formidable cross-party campaign led by the MP Stella Creasy.

"Mr Hunt, as health secretary, had, prior to this point, held the power to enable women and girls to access funded care in England, but he chose not to use it — and indeed went to court to successfully contest a claim brought by a teenager and her mother from Northern Ireland, who had paid nearly £1,000 for care in England."

Stella Creasy said the current situation is "not a solution" to ensuring all UK women are treated equally and have safe access to healthcare.

"With over 1,000 women making this journey to England and Wales to get an abortion from Northern Ireland each year because they can’t at home, it's time all these men stopped hiding behind devolution and admitted they care more for the DUP rights than human rights," she said.

Earlier this week, Line of Duty star Adrian Dunbar joined a host a celebrities in signing a letter calling on the future Prime Minister to make legislative changes to Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws.

The letter was backed by 44 other organisations and celebrities, including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Stacey Dooley and Konnie Huq, demanding reform of the 1861 legislation that criminalises abortion in Northern Ireland in almost all circumstances.

Siobhan McSweeney of Derry Girls fame and Hollyoaks star Bronagh Waugh, who are both active campaigners for free, safe and legal abortion access, also signed the letter.

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