Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland women could get abortions in Republic if 'yes' vote wins

By Cate McCurry

Women from Northern Ireland could cross the border to access abortion services if the Irish referendum produces a 'yes' vote, it has been claimed.

Pro-choice groups say the Good Friday Agreement opens the door to equal rights to healthcare in the event of a 'yes' vote.

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

Last week a pro-choice organisation said that if abortion is legalised in the Republic, it would expect the Irish government to live up to its commitments under the Agreement and facilitate women from Northern Ireland accessing termination services across the border.

Last year, more than 700 women from Northern Ireland travelled to clinics in England for abortions.

Alliance for Choice campaigner Danielle Roberts is hopeful that referrals could be provided to pregnant women from Northern Ireland seeking terminations in the South.

Belfast-based Danielle, who is also a member of the Together for Yes campaign, said costs would be lower than travelling to England.

"Obviously the legislation hasn't been sorted out but we know there's a lot of cross-border healthcare, including things like heart operations, and there's people who quite frequently travel down south to access their services," she said.

"We hope there would be a referral pathway for people to travel to the South and we are still in Europe for another year so the European health insurance could entitle women to care at the same provision as what a local would get.

"It's probably going to be a private procedure but you could pay with the European health insurance.

"It's likely to be GP-led but those details aren't hashed out yet so it's difficult to be certain, but we would be hopeful there would be a way for people to access it. Even if it's private and not funded, it would still help some people who would find it easier to travel down south.

"The proposed 72-hour waiting period is not ideal in that people would have to travel twice but if you are somewhere close to the border, that might not be a hassle.

"We have funding for treatment if we travel to England but funding is only provided if you meet the criteria for a means-tested bursary so most people still have to pay their travel costs.

"A lot of people who have abortions already have children so they would have to put childcare arrangements in place to travel to England.

"It might be easier to go over the border than flying to England."

Meanwhile, thousands of campaigners calling for the retention of Ireland's strict abortion laws have held a rally in Dublin.

The Stand Up for Life demonstration on Merrion Square near the Irish parliament took place with less than two weeks to go before the landmark referendum on the state's constitutional restriction on terminations.

Clerics, doctors and women who have experienced abortions addressed the event calling for a No vote. Nuns and monks were among a diverse crowd of young and old amid an upbeat atmosphere in the Dublin sunshine.

Colourful banners were displayed urging people to protect the unborn.

Belfast Telegraph

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