Secretary of State moves on abortion provision in Northern Ireland

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NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis today took further legislative steps to ensure abortion services are commissioned for women and girls in the north.

The Northern Ireland Office said this move followed ‘inaction’ after the NI Executive failed to pass the commissioning of the services.

The Department of Health (DoH) had been tasked to ensure the NI Executive agree to commission services by a deadline of March 31, 2022 but this didn’t happen.

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There is currently no sitting Executive after it was collapsed by the DUP earlier in March over the NI Protocol.

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.

Today it was announced Mr Lewis was laying regulations ‘that remove the need’ for the DoH to seek Executive Committee approval, resulting, the NIO office said, in ‘no further barriers to commission and fund services’.

The new regulations will also mean that the UK Government can intervene if there is ‘further inaction’ and a small team of medical experts has been established in the NI Office ‘to work alongside the DoH and report back’ to Mr Lewis if there is no action over the coming weeks.

Mr Lewis claimed: “It is absolutely unacceptable that the Executive and DoH have failed women and girls, meaning that they cannot currently access the same basic abortion healthcare that is available to women and girls in the rest of the UK.

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“That’s why I am acting to remove any further barriers to delivering services.

“The DoH must drive forward the commissioning of abortion services without further delay to ensure that safe abortion becomes embedded into the health and social care system in Northern Ireland.”