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UK government calls on Northern Ireland to set up comprehensive abortion services | UK News

The Parliament of Northern Ireland has been ordered to set up comprehensive abortion services by the end of March 2022.

The country’s once strict abortion laws were liberalized in 2019 following legislation passed by Westminster at a time when devolution to Stormont had collapsed.

Individual health trusts provide services for early medical abortions on an ad hoc basis, but the Department of Health has yet to commission full services due to a impasse in progress within the decentralized administration.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these limitations meant that many women continued to travel to England to access abortions.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis says he has a “moral obligation” to protect women’s rights

But on Thursday, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis used new powers order the health ministry and others to order full services.

He said: “I recognize and respect the deeply held views that individuals have on this issue.

“However, it is the clear will of parliament that the rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland are properly respected.”

Ulster Union Health Minister Robin Swann had insisted he could not order services centrally without the approval of the five-party coalition executive, saying he was his legal responsibility to refer controversial or important decisions to other ministers.

For such a proposal to gain executive approval – or even be on the agenda for discussion – the two main parties, DUP and Sinn Fein, must both agree.

But the anti-abortion DUP had blocked that.

In March, the government intervened, giving Mr Lewis the power to order the Department of Health to order the services.

Pro-life activists demonstrate in Stormont Park, Belfast.  Photo file
Pro-choice activists have long sought access to abortion services. Photo file

Mr Lewis said on Thursday: “This current stalemate leaves me with no choice but to give direction.


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This notice was published: 2021-07-22 20:10:00

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