Leo Vardakar to see if northern women can have abortions in the Republic
THE Dublin government is to look at whether women from Northern Ireland can avail of abortion services south of the border.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday told the Dáil that he expected provisions which entitle Irish citizens to access cross-border healthcare would apply in the case of terminations.
His remarks came in response to a question from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and follow the Yes campaign's victory in last Friday's referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
The Republic's government will begin a process of implementing new legislation that extends access to abortion in the wake of the resounding referendum result.
Health Minister Simon Harris hopes to bring the relevant bill before the Dail ahead of the summer recess.
Mr Martin asked the taoiseach about women from Northern Ireland who might wish to avail of services in the Republic under the new legal framework.
When the fresh abortion legislation is implemented in the south, the north will be the only part of Ireland and Britain where free access to abortion up to 12 weeks is not available.
In Northern Ireland terminations are only permitted if a woman's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.
In responding to a question from the Fianna Fáil leader, Mr Varadkar said his goverment could "examine the position" on women from Northern Ireland.
He said there were already "established links" between the Republic's health services and those north of the border.
"My initial impression is that it will be treated like a normal health service – it is already the case that women who reside in Northern Ireland and women who are Irish citizens can travel to Ireland to avail of healthcare," he said.
"There are people on the northern side of the border whose GPs are south of the border. People from Northern Ireland already come to hospitals here for healthcare."
The Fine Gael leader said he expected those from the north seeking terminations would be "treated as a normal part of the health service in the normal way".
Sinn Féin said it would be "extremely important that women would be supported irrespective of which part of the island they live in.
“Mary Lou McDonald has made it clear that it is unthinkable that women in a border town like Dundalk with a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality could have an abortion and a woman in Newry could not.
“Services like this and support for women can’t be unequal across Ireland," a spokesperson said.
“The challenge for us now is to legislate for a compassionate healthcare system for women right across this island.”