Scotland has an opportunity to provide support for Northern Ireland women
Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, today (17 Nov) used First Minister's Questions to highlight the plight of women from Northern Ireland who are being denied access to abortion services by the law in Northern Ireland, and are then faced with large financial costs to access services in England & Wales.
During the Smith Commission discussions in 2014 the Scottish Greens successfully argued for powers over abortion to be devolved to Holyrood.
Abortion in Northern Ireland is illegal unless there is a direct threat to the mother’s life if the pregnancy continues. An estimated 2,000 women a year travel from Northern Ireland to English hospitals and clinics to have terminations, and often have to find between £400 and £2000 to do so.
At First Minister's Questions, Patrick Harvie urged Nicola Sturgeon to explore how the NHS in Scotland can provide access to abortion if women from Northern Ireland choose to come here.
Speaking afterwards, Patrick said:
"I'm pleased the First Minister agreed with my suggestion to explore this issue with NHS Scotland. The stress and costs that women in Northern Ireland face is simply unacceptable, and Scotland has the opportunity to provide much-needed support.
"While abortion is never an easy decision, it should be viewed as a normal part of healthcare. The idea that we would refuse to provide such a service on the basis of where someone is from is simply unacceptable. I look forward to hearing further from the First Minister on this issue."
Clare Bailey MLA of the Green Party of Northern Ireland welcomed the issue being raised.
"The time for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland is long overdue. The Green party in Northern Ireland trust women to make their own choices. It’s time our legislators did."