Department of Health directed to make abortion services available by April 2022
Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has been directed to commission and make abortion services available as soon as possible and no later than 31 March 2022.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis yesterday issued the direction using his powers under the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021, which were agreed by Westminster earlier this year.
In a statement, he acknowledged that “some service provision commenced on the ground from last April”, but said he was “extremely disappointed that full commissioning proposals have not yet been brought forward”.
He continued: “This ongoing stalemate leaves me no choice but to issue a direction. I have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the women and girls in Northern Ireland are afforded their rights and can access the healthcare as set out in the 2020 Regulations.”
Welcoming the move, Grainne Teggart, Northern Ireland campaign manager for Amnesty International, said: “Once again action from Westminster has been necessary to ensure abortion rights are realised here.
“Services in line with our new law have been a long time coming; commissioning must now be swift to bring an end to the unacceptable denial of healthcare.
“Early medical abortion access remains on a cliff edge. It is therefore vital that the Department of Health ensures regional interim services are sustained whilst the commissioning process is underway.
“Choice must be respected and protected – the only way to achieve this is through a service that is fully resourced and accessible to all who need it.
“Abortion is healthcare, the sooner it is embedded in our healthcare system and any remaining stigma around it removed, the better.”