LONDON/BELFAST – On 23 October, UK Equalities Minister Justine Greening announced that the government would be extending funding for abortion procedures carried out on women on low incomes travelling to England and Wales from Northern Ireland. The announcement comes in the wake of the so-called ‘Creasy amendment’ to the Queen’s Speech in June.
“As a society we should support all pregnant women, especially those in difficult circumstances. We should use our considerable resources to support every mother and her unborn child, because both lives matter,” said Laurence Wilkinson, an English Solicitor and Legal Counsel for ADF International based in London.
“This latest development clearly undermines the UK’s Government long standing policy of neutrality on abortion. At least 100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because the Northern Ireland Assembly declined to adopt the 1967 Abortion Act. Despite these positive developments, especially women on low-incomes may feel the pressure to abort their unborn children. Travel, accommodation and abortion procedures will be offered for free, but there will be no additional funding for those who want to keep their babies. This wrongly undermines the sovereignty of the Northern Ireland Assembly on a sensitive and devolved issue.”
Background: the “Creasy amendment”
At the end of June, in response to an amendment to the Queen’s Speech by Labour MP Stella Creasy, the Equalities Minister committed to providing funding for abortion procedures carried out on women coming to England and Wales from Northern Ireland. The scheme was limited to covering the abortion procedure alone and did not extend beyond that.
Now Labour MPs and lobby groups have pressured the Government into extending the scheme to cover the cost of travel to the UK, accommodation for women on low incomes, as well as a centralised phone number that will target women from Northern Ireland.
“International law protects the right to life of every human being. The Convention on the Rights of the Child specifically calls for special safeguards and care before as well as after birth. Northern Ireland’s laws provide strong protections for the mother and her child, and there is no right to abortion in international law that would require the UK Government to introduce such an extensive funding scheme,” said Wilkinson.
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