To avoid defeat on a House of Commons vote, the government has said women from Northern Ireland will be able to get abortions on the NHS in England. Women are not able to get abortions in Northern Ireland except when there is a risk of death or serious damage to physical or mental health.
A woman can obtain an NHS abortion elsewhere in the UK, but only if she can pay. This anomaly has caused untold suffering over the years which, until now, has been ignored by many politicians, even those who are otherwise pro-choice. An amendment brought by Labour’s Stella Creasy on the issue had been selected for inclusion in the Queen’s Speech debate. And rather than risk possible defeat the government has now decided it will change its line on the issue.
Whatever the reasons, it is a tremendous victory for the women of Northern Ireland. The battle now is to make abortions available in Northern Ireland, and indeed across the whole island of Ireland.