Northern Ireland's strict stance on abortion has left thousands of women following through with unwanted pregnancies, illegally — not to mention dangerously — terminating their pregnancies in their own country, or forking out large sums of money to travel to Britain to get an abortion via private health care. Back in June, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal for women from Northern Ireland to have access to NHS abortions, which caused outcry amongst women's rights campaigners, and within the same month, the government overturned decisions and opened up access to women from Northern Ireland, with the three main abortion providers in England no longer charging residents of Northern Ireland. Following the UK government's move to allow women to get access to the NHS services they require, NHS Scotland announced that as of yesterday, women from Northern Ireland would have access to free procedures in Scottish territories.
As it currently stands, the only exception for an abortion to be carried out in Northern Ireland is in extreme cases where a woman's health is at risk, ignoring all other women who seek termination services, including those where conception was by rape, incest, or where there appears to be foetal complications. In addition to offering the services, the Scottish government also wanted to address the 'barriers' that women, who are travelling to Scotland for an abortion, can often face, according to public health minister Aileen Campbell.
“Abortion can be an emotive subject,” she added. “However, I am proud this government is working hard to ensure women are always able to access clinically safe services. That's why we have taken action to ensure that women from Northern Ireland can freely access abortion services through NHS Scotland.”
Addressing travel barriers, namely the cost that can surround getting from Northern Ireland to Scotland, Justine Greening, the equalities minister, said low-income women would also receive help with travel expenses, according to a ministerial statement back in October.
Whilst Northern Ireland's policies surrounding abortion remains strongly in tact, it's great to see that other parts of the United Kingdom recognise that access to all female reproductive services — including terminations — are needed and helps the overall lives of women.