Northern Ireland news

Confusion around how women from Northern Ireland will access abortions in the Republic

Dublin health minister Simon Harris has confirmed he is extending access to abortion services in the Republic to women in Northern Ireland. Health correspondent Seanín Graham considers the confusion around the provision

Women seeking abortion services in the Republic will have to see a GP as part of an initial assessment
Seanín Graham

THE mechanisms as to how women from Northern Ireland will access abortion services in the Republic remain unclear as health officials were unable to provide any clarity last night.

Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International, who has been a high-profile campaigner for reform of the north's abortion laws, said it was her understanding that women from the north would have to pay to see a GP for an initial assessment.

Payments range between 50 to 70 euro for GP appointments though it is not known how much will be charged for abortion pills, which can be taken up until the twelfth week of pregnancy.

The Irish News asked the Department of Health whether women from Northern Ireland will have to register with a a GP in the south and to provide details in terms of access regarding abortion pills. No-one was available to comment.

In England, the current law states that in the case of medical abortions - where two pills must be taken within 48 to 72 hours of each other - the pills must be taken on medical premises which means the woman has to make a return visit two to three days later.

Many women travelling from the north to England for free NHS abortions choose to have surgical abortion as they are there for a shorter period - up to 48 hours - according to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.

GPs opposed to abortion in the south have raised concerns about the right to conscientiously object - but then be forced to refer patients to other doctors.

But a month after the the Republic's historic referendum, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted his government would not allow doctors the right to refuse to refer a woman seeking an abortion to another doctor.

Mr Varadkar said that sends out a message that "you're on your own, love" and that was not acceptable in Ireland anymore.

He also said the Republic's abortion service could be effectively delivered by as few as 60 doctors.

Read more: Landmark move to allow Northern Ireland women access to abortion services in Republic confirmed

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