At last! Women in Northern Ireland finally have access to free, safe and legal abortion services.
The Department of Health has now confirmed that it has received legal advice that abortions can be carried out at health and social care premises.
The current arrangements still have a way to go to meet the full needs of women but, after years of struggle, protest, legal actions and personal trauma pain and suffering, this is a hugely significant moment for abortion services in Northern Ireland.
The regrets remain that it took legislation tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy at Westminster to bring about these changes, rather than legislation at Stormont. Moves to rewrite the current legislation continue to pose a risk to women’s health here.
Also welcome, but again from Westminster, was the lifting of restrictions on accessing and taking abortion pills up to ten weeks.
The initiative of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) should also be applauded. From 9th April, women in Northern Ireland will be able to call a dedicated number to arrange tele-consultations with a doctor in Northern Ireland.
The charity has undertaken to provide, by post, and in consultation with a GP, abortion medication for women who cannot travel to a hospital or health facility during the Covid 19 crisis. This service will be free of charge to women in Northern Ireland. BPAS will meet the costs of treating women as part of its charitable remit.
Anyone in Northern Ireland who needs services provided by BPAS can call 0300 500 8086 to arrange a teleconsultation with a doctor in Northern Ireland.