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Labour MP pledges free travel for Northern Ireland women receiving abortions in England

<span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; ">Labour MP Stella Creasy was instrumental in getting free abortions for Northern Ireland women in England</span>
Labour MP Stella Creasy was instrumental in getting free abortions for Northern Ireland women in England

A LABOUR MP who was instrumental in getting free abortions for Northern Ireland women in England yesterday pledged to ensure their travel costs are covered.

Stella Creasy said the cost of flights acted as a "barrier" for women seeking terminations and that she would be seeking support from the UK government on the issue.

The high-profile Walthamstow MP also said she was "absolutely horrified" over the Department of Health in the north's failure to provide updated guidance to health professionals over the past year.

Speaking to a packed audience at an event organised by the Family Planning Association as part of Féile, Ms Creasy required a police escort due to anti-abortion campaigners outside the Falls Road library entrance.

She revealed the death threats she had received from pro-life advocates and called for the creation of a "buffer zone" to prevent harassment of women with crisis pregnancies accessing services.

In June, legal history was made after Ms Creasy put forward a proposal to give Northern Ireland women access to NHS-funded abortions in England, the costs of which range from £200 to £1,400.

The measure was set to be supported by most of her party colleagues as well as some Tory MPs - but would not have received backing from the staunchly anti-abortion DUP following its deal with Theresa May.

To prevent a rebellion, chancellor Philip Hammond announced that legislation was to be passed guaranteeing the NHS funding. Within weeks, the Scottish and Welsh governments followed suit and agreed to provide free abortions for women travelling from the north.

Ms Creasy said she intended to apply further pressure in the wake of the DUP agreement with the Conservative party.

"Women's rights should not be at the expense of a deal to keep Theresa May in office," she added.

Breedagh Hughes, who heads up the Royal College of Midwives, also spoke of the difficulties facing her members following a tightening of the laws on abortion pills.

In an emotional address, she described the trauma for expectant mothers dealing with the devastation of dealing with a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality following a 20-week scan.

"I know of some women who lock themselves away during the second half of their pregnancy because they cannot deal with people asking questions about their baby...when they know that baby will most likely die after delivery."

She added: "The law is very unfair...if a woman tells her midwife that she has accessed abortion pills we are legally obliged to inform the police, if we don't midwives risk prosecution themselves."

But anti-abortion campaigner Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life last night branded the event a "disgrace" and accused Ms Creasy of "ignoring the right to life".

Ms Smyth said: "Stella Creasy does not represent the majority of the people of Northern Ireland and we have elected representatives to uphold our democracy".