Scotland and Wales now offer free abortions to women who hail from Northern Ireland where abortion is illegal, based on Tuesday legislation.
The change in policy comes after the U.K. government announced that it would fund abortions Thursday. The new legislation will have a noticeable impact, considering the fact that thousands of Irish women travel to Britain every year to get abortions, paying up to £900 for the procedure.
The decision comes shortly after Irish judges conversely ruled that women could not obtain free abortions through Britain’s National Health Services, citing “respect to the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland,” according to the Independent.
The Scottish and Welsh governments reversed this decision Tuesday, citing the 2016 Scotland Act granting “devolved powers” over abortion.
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones told the Welsh assembly that the Labour administration would match the government’s promise to fund abortions for women traveling from Northern Ireland, according to the Guardian. He added that the policy’s details would be determined shortly.
“The first minister has already made clear that the Scottish government would look into the provision of abortion in Scotland to women from Northern Ireland,” said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“The Scottish government’s view is that abortion should be part of standard healthcare for all women, and available free from stigma. The Scottish government believes that a woman from Northern Ireland, in Scotland, should be able to access an abortion for free on the same basis as women in Scotland and we will set out shortly how that can be achieved,” Sturgeon said.
However, support for the policy change is not universal. The pro-life Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which signed a formal agreement with the U.K. Conservative Party to prop up Theresa May’s minority government, is upset with May’s bow to pro-abortion demands.
The DUP won’t compromise on its anti-abortion stance, Northern Ireland MP Ian Paisley said, arguing that “the rights of the unborn child trump any political agreement that has been put in place.”
A fetus “is a human being, it feels pain and emotion and is faithfully and wonderfully made … My party will take a stand on that issue irrespective of the political agreements that are reached,” Paisley said.
Scotland and Wales seek to implement the policy changes as soon as possible.
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