Northern Ireland news

Westminster 'may intervene' over abortion services

Westminster may intervene over the provision of abortion services in the north

Westminster may intervene over the provision of abortion services in the north, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has said.

Abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy has been legal in the north since last year.

MPs voted for a change in the law in 2019, during the hiatus at Stormont.

However, Stormont officials have not yet set up abortion services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: Legal action launched over lack of abortion services

Last week, the NI Human Rights Commission launched legal action against the secretary of state and Department of Health, citing a disparity in services amongst the five health trusts.

Alliance North Down MP Stephen Farry wrote to the NIO separately to raise concerns about the issue.

In his reply, NIO minister Robin Walker wrote it is the right of women and girls to access abortion services under the north's laws.

"While recognising the extreme pressures on health systems across the UK, we remain disappointed that the Northern Ireland Executive and Department of Health have not acted by now to ensure they deliver on these rights following the earlier change to the law," he wrote.

He said the NIO believes that commissioning of services by the Department of Health remains the best way forward.

But he added: "In parallel, we are also considering further potential legislative action at Westminster, at the appropriate time, should it be required."

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