Thank you for contacting me about Northern Irish women gaining access to NHS-funded abortions in England.
I recognise that this is a very delicate and sensitive issue. Abortion access is the topic of contentious and emotive debate. For this reason all MPs are free to vote with their conscience on abortion matters, rather than in line with their parties, and I support this convention wholeheartedly. The Government wishes to see safe abortion services provided within the law to women who need them.
The provision of abortions is a devolved issue. Devolved NHS authorities are responsible for providing healthcare to those resident in their regions.
However, following a recent Supreme Court judgement, which outlined the law surrounding the provision of abortions to Northern Irish women in England, the Government has announced that payment for abortions for Northern Irish women in the NHS will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding.
This development does not alter the fact that the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue, and the responsibility of politicians in Northern Ireland. The funding of NHS abortion services for Northern Irish women by the Government Equalities Office ensures these women safe access to legal abortions in England, without compromising the devolution of NHS services in the UK.
In response to the case of the mother being prosecuted under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act in Northern Ireland, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn.
Following the decision by the UK Government to fund NHS abortions for Northern Irish women, the Welsh Government has stated that it intends to follow suit, and is investigating the means in which to do so.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.