Belfast Telegraph

New service to help Northern Irish women access abortions in England

The service will offer help and advice to women

A Central Booking Service (CBS) has been established for Northern Irish women accessing free abortions in England, it has been announced today.

The service has been established by the British Pregnancy Advice Service (BYPAS).

Women from Northern Ireland will have just one telephone number to call in order to receive all the information they require with regards to termination of pregnancy services, South Belfast MLA Clare Bailey has said.

The CBS will then arrange an appointment with the most appropriate provider, based on the woman’s needs, such as location, gestation and availability.

The CBS will also book travel and, if necessary, accommodation for women who are experiencing financial hardship, once eligibility has been confirmed.

Ms Bailey said the new service would offer assistance to many women from Northern Ireland.

“I am delighted that the central booking system has now been established and will be managed by BPAS. This organisation not only provides emotional and practical support for women who need to access abortions from Northern Ireland but they have been excellent campaigners who have been active in trying to change our barbaric laws in Northern Ireland," she said.

“This organisation has had to provide services for 50 years to our women who have been forced to travel. They have seen first-hand the stress and hardship women have gone through because they could not access reproductive healthcare in Northern Ireland.

“They have also helped me in working on my Private Members Bill on buffer zones which will be back on the floor of the Assembly, should the institutions resume work."

She called for medical practitioners to be given clear guidance on the laws surrounding Northern Irish women and abortion.

“I understand that the UK Government Equalities Office officials have remained in contact with the Northern Ireland Office throughout the development of this scheme and are working together on a communications plan through which they aim to ensure that health care professionals have the appropriate information," the South Belfast MLA said.

“Given the Westminster government announced their plans to provide free abortions to women from Northern Ireland in June 2017 and that the Public Prosecution Service announced in August 2017 that there was no threat of prosecution to NHS staff who referred women for abortion, and that the free abortion service was made available in October 2017, it is imperative that medical practitioners are given clear guidance on this issue immediately.”

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