Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil to press for clarity on access to abortion services for women in north

Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald celebrate the referendum result
Seanín Graham and

SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has insisted women in Northern Ireland must have access to planned new abortion services in the Republic.

Fianna Fáil also said last night it is to seek a Dáil debate to examine arrangements for women in the north to access GP services for advice on terminations.

Abortion legislation is now to be drafted in the Republic following a resounding referendum vote to repeal the constitution's eighth amendment.

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It is unclear whether women from the north, where abortion is largely outlawed, may be able to have the costs of accessing southern services reimbursed through EU law and cross-border healthcare arrangements.

Since last year there has been free access to NHS abortion services in England, as well as support for travel for those on low incomes.

There was pressure last night on Theresa May from MPs across the House of Commons to intervene to reform Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws.

Labour said it was "looking at legislative options" in the absence of a Stormont assembly, although the DUP insisted abortion is a devolved issue and Downing Street also said changes are "a matter for Northern Ireland".

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Ms McDonald told The Irish News it would be "unthinkable" that a woman in a border town like Dundalk with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality could have have an abortion but a woman “up the road” in Newry could not.

“As the legislation goes into the real process, through committee and so on, a lot of issues, including the question of women from the north - huge numbers of whom of course are Irish citizens and carry Irish passports and will have to have their rights vindicated – will have to be accommodated, facilitated and resourced,” she said.

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said there are already all-island agreements in place on access to healthcare.

"Fianna Fáil believe it would be compassionate, prudent and pragmatic to examine arrangements for women in crisis pregnancies to access GP services in the Republic for advice on terminations," he said.

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"We will request and debate this issue in the Dáil."

An Irish government spokesman said: "The issue of abortion services in Northern Ireland is a matter to be addressed within that jurisdiction and ideally by a restored Northern Ireland Executive and assembly."

Abortion campaigners will meanwhile hold a rally at Belfast City Hall today to call for abortion reform in the north in the wake of the south's referendum result.

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