Northern Ireland Launches Legal Action Against UK Government Over Lack Of Abortion Services
A legal battle has been launched against the UK government, over the lack of abortion support in Northern Ireland, more than a year after it was made legal.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) says women are still being forced to seek out unregulated pregnancy terminations, due to a lack of safe and accessible abortion services.
The commission, which is also taking action against the country’s Department of Health, has accused Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis of unlawfully denying women of their fundamental right to an abortion.
Since October 2019, abortion has been legal in Northern Ireland up to 12 weeks, however four of the five trusts in the country are said to be only providing the required pills up to 10 weeks, with nothing between 10 and 12 weeks, while a fifth trust has no early medical abortion service at all.
The South Eastern trust stopped offering early medical abortion services after a doctor went on maternity leave, while another put all services on halt in October 2020 due to a lack of funding, however it did resume services earlier this month.
Les Allamby, head of NIHRC, says the body has stepped in after Lewis, the country’s Department of Health, and Northern Ireland Executive all failed to take responsibility for ensuring the adequate running of services.
‘We have entered a Kafkaesque world where the Northern Ireland Office claims it is taking all reasonable steps to enable a service, the Department of Health claims it cannot get agreement to commission and fund a service through the NI Executive, and the NI Executive says it is a matter for the Department of Health,’ he explained, as per The Guardian.
‘It is a game of pass the parcel where the music never stops, except it is not a game but an issue of women’s health and wellbeing. In addition, forcing women to travel raises wider public health issues.’
Labour MP Stella Creasy, who introduced the bill to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland, said the fact women are still being forced to travel for abortions lies directly with Brandon Lewis, who said last month he was ‘proud’ the government had introduced the right to abortion.
She said: ‘Those whose rights are being denied are rightly asking why Brandon Lewis won’t accept a hard border in the Irish Sea when it comes to goods and services but he will with women’s rights.’
In response to the lack of services, a number of committed medics have been offering unfunded services, with fewer than a dozen doctors facilitating 719 terminations between April and November of 2020.
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