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Number of Northern Ireland women choosing abortion rises dramatically

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Abortion in Northern Irelands was legislated for from Westminster.

Abortion in Northern Irelands was legislated for from Westminster.

PA

Abortion in Northern Irelands was legislated for from Westminster.

The numbers of women from Northern Ireland choosing to terminate their pregnancies has dramatically increased since the procedure was made legal last year.

As of June 11, the Department of Health had received 1,624 notifications of termination, despite the lack of a full and formal commissioning of the service here.

A further 371 women travelled to Britain in the 12 months ending March 2021. That is a decrease from 1,014 who had to travel over the previous year.

In total, 1994 women from Northern Ireland have chosen to terminate their pregnancies since the introduction of the legislation, both here and in Britain.

Abortion was legalised following an Act of Parliament in late 2019 while the Assembly remained suspended.

For decades prior to the act, abortions were allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman's life was at risk, or, if there was a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

But the provisions of the new act, which allows medical professionals to terminate pregnancies, have not yet been fully implemented or funded.

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WARNING: Brandon Lewis

WARNING: Brandon Lewis

WARNING: Brandon Lewis

"In relation to the full commissioning of abortion services, the Department has resumed planning work to develop a service specification, which will be subject to the agreement of the Executive in due course," a health department spokesperson said.

"Under the Ministerial Code any matter which is significant or controversial and clearly outside the scope of the Programme for Government must be brought to the Executive for consideration and agreement.

"It is not possible at present to give a timescale for the introduction of a fully commissioned abortion service."

The department also added that it is not required to commission the services but has advised trusts that terminations are required to be carried out on Health and Social Care premises.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis has warned Stormont he is running out of patience over its failure to implement abortion services in Northern Ireland and will not wait much longer to intervene.

Mr Lewis said in a recent interview that while he wanted to give the Executive and Assembly "space" to roll out abortion services, he was "not going to wait very long".

In response to a parliamentary question, NI junior minister Robin Walker described as "very distressing to hear that even throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, some women and girls have still been forced to travel, at a time where it is even more crucial for local access to healthcare to be available".

Mr Walker added: "Progress must be made towards properly commissioning services so that safe, local abortion services are fully available as a healthcare service in Northern Ireland. The current situation is not acceptable.

"If there continues to be no progress, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will issue a direction using his powers under the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021, to ensure that services are commissioned and delivered."



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