The British government announced Monday it plans to fund free abortions for pregnant women from Northern Ireland.
The announcement comes after the UK, including Scotland and Wales, declared it would offer free abortions to women who hail from Northern Ireland where abortion is illegal. The UK government said it will set up a telephone booking system that will help women get an abortion, according to the Guardian.
“The funding will be accessed via a grant scheme that will be administered by the Department of Health,” equalities minister Justine Green said in a written statement Monday. “The cost of this service will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding provided by HM Treasury. A small number of procedures will continue to be provided through the NHS where this is necessary for medical reasons.”
The three biggest abortion providers in the UK haven’t been making women from Northern Ireland pay for their abortions since June, Greening said. She added that the British government will reimburse the clinics with the cost of these abortion procedures.
The funding plan comes after the UK government announced it would provide free abortions in late June. Now that Britain has determined how it will implement its policy change, the legislation is expected to have a noticeable impact, especially considering thousands of Irish women travel to Britain every year to get abortions, paying up to around $1,200 for the procedure.
Not long before the UK’s announcement, 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 however, citing the 2016 Scotland Act granting “devolved powers” over abortion.
“The Scottish government’s view is that abortion should be part of standard healthcare for all women, and available free from stigma,” said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon after the decision reversal. “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 added. (Related: Scotland And Wales Will Offer Free Abortions To Women From Northern Ireland).
“Today we also pledge to keep standing with them until they have equal access to abortion services in Northern Ireland itself,” Labour prime minister, Stella Creasy, said on Monday following the announcement of the government’s funding plan. “Our sisters need to have their human rights to be upheld and we won’t give up until they have so.”
A British supreme court will hear a case regarding Northern Ireland’s abortion restrictions on Tuesday.
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