Women from north 'will be charged €450 for an abortion' at Dublin family planning clinic
WOMEN from Northern Ireland who want an abortion at a family planning centre in the Republic will be charged €450 for the procedure.
Although terminations, including the mandatory two doctor's appointments, are free for women from the Republic, the Health Service Executive (HSE) said northern women will have to pay.
And there is no fixed rate for the procedure.
An HSE spokeswoman said if women from the north want to have a termination through a GP in the Republic, that GP will "decide on the cost of the service".
The Republic's health minister Simon Harris had pledged that he will look at providing free abortions to women from the north but the spokeswoman said "a mechanism has yet to be found".
A spokeswoman from the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) said yesterday its €450 charge will cover what it receives from the HSE to provide a termination.
She said women may also have to pay extra for scans and blood tests.
Women can call the IFPA to make an appointment at one of its two clinics in Dublin city centre and Tallaght.
The clinic has already been contacted by several women from the north who want to access abortions.
However, it said it does not presently have the capacity to take in women from outside the Republic because its services are already booked for the next three weeks.
Abortion on demand remains illegal in Northern Ireland.
Abortions became legal in the Republic from January 1 following a landmark referendum on the issue last year.
But there remains uncertainty over how women from outside the Republic can access the procedure.
Women who live in the Republic are advised to contact the 1800 My Options helpline where they will be referred to a GP who has signed up to provide abortions.
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Women from the north can ring the service on 00 353 1 6877044, although this number has not been widely publicised.
The Irish Times reported that of the 187 GPs who have so far agreed to provide abortions, only around 100 are accepting referrals from My Options.
The new laws will allow for unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, subject to a three-day cooling-off period and approval from two doctors.
In 2017, around 3,092 women from the Republic and 919 from the north travelled to have an abortion in England or Wales.
Mara Clarke from Abortion Support Network said she would still recommend that women from the north travel to England.
"Abortions are free in England and travel and accommodation costs will be met if you fall under certain criteria," she said.
Ms Clarke said women on low incomes or benefits will generally have their travel and accommodation costs covered.
Anti-abortion group Precious Life said it will continue to oppose any relaxation of the north's law on terminations.
"The push from pro-abortion advocates and politicians in Westminster has greatly accelerated," the group said.
"We must continue to pressurise Westminster not to interfere with our life-saving laws. They must respect our democratic process, devolution and our culture of life."
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Louise O'Reilly has called for 'buffer zones' outside healthcare facilities after an anti-abortion group held a protest outside a GP's surgery in Galway yesterday.
"This is deplorable behaviour, but ultimately it is unsurprising and was predicted by many," she said.
Ms O'Reilly said buffer zones were needed to protect doctors and patients.