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Health chiefs in Northern Ireland 'to consider' impact of Republic's landmark abortion referendum

MLA Clare Bailey who is a pro-choice campaigner
Seanín Graham

THE Department of Health last night said it will "carefully consider" any changes to abortion laws in the Republic and how it will impact on Northern Ireland.

But Department chiefs insisted that any reform of the north's strict abortion laws will be "for ministers to consider".

Pro-choice groups yesterday stepped up theirs calls for Westminister to intervene in the absence of a devolved government following the landslide referendum vote in the Republic.

While DUP leader Arlene Foster has insisted any changes to the north's existing abortion legislation is a "devolved matter", Green Party Assembly member and campaigner Clare Bailey said the British government had the power to act "under international human rights law".

"All eyes are on Westminster now and a lot of people are lobbying from both the Labour and Conservative sides to extend the 1967 Act to Northern Ireland," she said.

“While the Republic moves forward, women in Northern Ireland remain threatened with prison for seeking an abortion...and will now be seen as one of the most oppressive regimes in Western Europe.

"For the Department to say it is matter for ministers and therefore a devolved matter is just not true. Westminster needs to act."

Menawhile women from nine anti-abortion groups yesterday penned an open letter to British prime minister Theresa May, demanding "their elected representatives decide on what the law on abortion should be".

Dawn McAvoy of pro-life group, Both Live Matter

Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter NI said: "Across the UK this is the time for a better story around pregnancy crisis than assuming that abortion is what women want or need.

"We would ask that British MPs respect the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives. We do not want the social model of Great Britain imposed on us in this area. Progress isn't the dehumanisation of our unborn children, progress is recognising that there are at least two lives in existence in every pregnancy and standing with us to say that Both Lives Matter."

When asked by the Irish News if existing cross-border arrangements for healthcare - heart surgery is carried out in Dublin for children from the north as well as cancer treatment in Derry for southern patients - would extend to abortion services, a spokeswoman from the Department said:

"The Department of Health will carefully consider any changes to the law in the Republic of Ireland and impact this may have for Northern Ireland. Any change to the law in Northern Ireland will be for Ministers to consider."

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