Abortion ruling by British government, a major test of newly formed DUP/ Conservative party alliance

Pro-choice and anti-abortion campaigners outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast yesterday where the Court of Appeal allowed an appeal against a lower court's ruling that abortion legislation was incompatible with the UK's Human Rights Act. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

THE British government's surprise move to fund abortions for women arriving in England from the north will be regarded as one of many hurdles the newly formed DUP/Tory alliance will encounter.

The minority Conservative government survived its first parliamentary test after its Queen's Speech cleared the House of Commons with the support of the DUP.

But the outcome could have been very different.

The government managed to avert a possible rebellion by announcing women from the north would get free access to abortions on the NHS in England.

Labour MP Stella Creasy had tabled an amendment which had attracted cross-party backing.


Mrs May's government was forced into a chaotic change of policy over the divisive issue and hastily drew up emergency plans to give women in Northern Ireland financial help to seek terminations in the UK.

In the process they managed to head off a Tory revolt which threatened to derail the process.

Ms Creasy agreed to withdraw the amendment when the government announced its concession.

But it has showed how vulnerable the new alliance is.

The DUP's position on abortion is clear. The party has long opposed terminations and any attempts to liberalise the law.

Pro choice supporters argued that if Theresa May was looking to Northern Ireland to ensure her government can govern they should have the same rights as other UK residents.

The alliance between the two parties was unexpectedly thrown into the spotlight on this issue and it is possibly one of many they will face on a rocky road ahead.

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