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Simon Harris: Women from North will be allowed access to abortion services in Republic

The Abortion Rights Campaign has said the announcement, while welcome, is not a solution to the abortion issue in Northern Ireland.

Women calling for abortion reform in Northern Ireland, 10 June 2018.
Women calling for abortion reform in Northern Ireland, 10 June 2018.
Image: Niall Carson via PA Images

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has promised that women in Northern Ireland will be able to access abortion services in the Republic.

Speaking in Belfast yesterday, Harris urged politicians in the North to address the near-total ban on abortion and ensured that women in the North will be able to access the service in the South.

The Abortion Rights Campaign has welcomed Harris’s commitment but added that this is “not a solution to the lack of abortion access in the North”.

The group added that Members of the Legislative Assembly should recognise their failure and start to provide care to pregnant people in their own communities.

“Women and pregnant people who travel for abortion care face practical and financial barriers; although these barriers will be lessened by travelling to Dublin rather than Liverpool, they still exist.

“Many will be unable to travel and will be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will.” the group said in a statement.

The ARC has asked that Harris does not restrict the service on the basis of residency status or nationality but “provided to all who need it as a matter of urgency, after decades of failing women and pregnant people”.

Currently, it’s illegal for a woman in the North to get an abortion unless there’s a risk to her life or a serious risk to her mental health. This differs from the rest of the UK where abortion without restriction is allowed up to 24 weeks.

In May, the Eighth Amendment referendum saw 66.4% vote in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment in the Republic and paved the way for it to be replaced with legislation allowing for terminations up to 12 weeks without restriction.

Harris has said that he hopes to have this legislation brought before the Dáil after the summer recess.

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Adam Daly

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