Today, the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis MP issued direction to the Department of Health, the Minister of Health, the Health and Social Care Board, and to the First and deputy First Minister, to commission and make abortion services available in Northern Ireland as soon as possible, by no later than 31 March 2022. He also issued direction to provide immediate funding support for interim services of early medical abortion, which are at risk of collapse.
Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS, said: “When parliament voted to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland in 2019, this was with a clear expectation that this would lead to comprehensive services being established. While we welcome the steps taken today to centrally commission services, we see no reason provisions should be delayed further until March 2022.
“We have waited a long time for meaningful action to secure accessible, sustainable abortion services in Northern Ireland. BPAS are glad to see interim financial support for early medical abortion services, as we know that lack of funding means current services are extremely fragile.
This is an important opportunity to commission and develop comprehensive, woman-centred abortion services in Northern Ireland. Women across the UK are entitled to safe, legal, local abortion care, whether they are resident in Belfast or Birmingham, and we hope today’s decision will make access to this care a reality."
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BPAS is a charity which sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here.
BPAS intends to launch a not-for-profit fertility service in Spring 2021, to provide ethical, evidence based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS funded care.