Announcement concerning the commissioning of abortion services welcome, says Bradshaw and Egan

Paula Bradshaw MLA and Connie Egan MLA have welcomed the recent announcement on the commissioning of reproductive healthcare services in Northern Ireland.

It has been confirmed by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, today (24th) that the UK Government is due to commence the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland. This comes after abortion legislation was previously liberalised in here in 2019.

While individual health trusts have been offering services on an ad-hoc basis, the Department of Health has yet to centrally commission the services.

Paula Bradshaw MLA has stated: “For too long the commissioning of basic healthcare services for women has been delayed, using the excuse of political deadlock. There has been a requirement in the UK’s international human rights obligations and in the law passed by the UK Parliament to have abortion services in place in Northern Ireland for over three years. We should not understate the pain and anguish which hundreds of women have faced during the interim time period.

“I remain concerned that, despite the Secretary of State’s intention to proceed with commissioning, we have still not been provided with a funding plan. What we need now is a clear roadmap to exactly how and when services will become available across Northern Ireland.

“Nevertheless, today’s announcement is a welcome demonstration that the Northern Ireland Office has been undertaking work to ensure the commissioning of these services even in the absence of functioning devolution, in recognition of the Secretary of State’s role in ensuring that the same human rights standards apply here as elsewhere in the UK.

Connie Egan MLA has said: “It has been clear since the UK signed up to the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Violence against Women (CEDAW) that this day would have to come in Northern Ireland and, frankly, it has taken too long. My thoughts on this day are with those women who were and still are forced to travel to access basic advice and services, often in the most vulnerable and traumatising of situations.

“It is now essential that implementation of commissioning moves on without the opportunity for further obstruction, and I look forward to swift clarification around exactly how these plans will proceed.