Northern Ireland news

Early abortion services in Western Trust resume after more than a year

Abortion was legalised in the Republic in 2018
Rebecca Black, PA

Abortion services in the Western Health Trust have resumed after more than a year.

Early abortion services in the trust area were suspended in April 2021 because of staffing shortages.

Today a Trust spokesperson said the Western Trust Early Medical Abortion Service “has now gone live”.

“The Western Trust Early Medical Abortion service was paused in April 2021 due to staff resourcing issues,” they said.

“In the interim from 1 April 2022 this service was being made available to anyone in the Western Trust area via our neighbouring HSC Trusts.

“The Western Trust Early Medical Abortion Service has now gone live and is available to those living in the Trust area.

“We apologise that this service had not been in place within the Western Trust for the past year.”

Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland deputy director Grainne Teggart said this healthcare must be available across Northern Ireland.

“Yet again we’re seeing barriers to abortion services in Northern Ireland. The constant setbacks are unacceptable – this healthcare must be available and accessible to all who need it,” she said.

Abortion legislation in Northern Ireland was liberalised in 2019 following laws passed by Westminster at a time when the powersharing government at Stormont had collapsed.

But while the individual health trusts in Northern Ireland offer services on an ad hoc basis, the Department of Health has yet to centrally commission the services due to a political impasse at Stormont on the issue.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis had given the administration a March 31 deadline to commission the services.

In May, with that date having passed and the Executive currently not functioning, Mr Lewis moved to introduce regulations at Westminster to break the logjam.

The regulations laid at Parliament were designed to remove the need for the Department of Health to seek the approval of the wider Stormont Executive to commission the services.

Ms Teggart added: “Despite abortion being decriminalised in Northern Ireland in October 2019, the Government still hasn’t established the commissioned abortion services it said it would.

“Access to this vital healthcare will remain fragile and patchy until the Government steps up and delivers.

“Abortion is lawful in Northern Ireland – no one should be refused this care. The Northern Ireland Secretary of State must commit to a deadline by which they will ensure services are up and running.

“Abortion is time-sensitive and those in need of the healthcare can’t afford to wait.”

Northern Ireland news