Northern Irish Women Could Soon Get Free Abortions In This Country

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Women from Northern Ireland could soon be allowed free abortions in Scotland if talks between the Scottish government and Scottish NHS end in their favour. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, said the devolved government in Edinburgh would discuss with the country's health service how it could enable Northern Irish women to obtain safe abortions without having to travel to England and pay for often expensive procedures, The Guardian reported. Abortion is severely restricted in Northern Ireland and is only available in hospitals to women whose lives would be at risk if they continued with the pregnancy. It is illegal in cases of rape and incest. Sturgeon said: “I was asked a question specifically in parliament about the scenario where a woman from Northern Ireland chooses to access an abortion in Scotland and whether they should be charged for that or not. “Now I said that we would explore that, so we are looking in terms of the process and will discuss with the NHS what would happen now routinely, and whether there are options to change that, to make the process safer for the women concerned." She added: “My view is that if a woman is going to access an abortion then the important thing is that it is as safe as possible… I am not putting a timescale on it but I will report back to parliament in due course.” The NHS across the UK doesn't pay for Northern Irish women to have abortions. Around 2000 women each year travel to Britain for the procedure and often have to pay between £400 and £2,000 at private clinics. A 15-year-old girl from Northern Ireland, who had to go to England for an abortion, is currently challenging the NHS's refusal to fund Northern Irish women's abortions in the supreme court, reported The Guardian. There remains strong opposition to abortion among members of the Northern Ireland assembly, with politicians from both sides voting against extending abortion rights to women who have been raped and in cases of incest. Earlier this year, a 21-year-old Northern Irish woman was sentenced for carrying out an abortion on herself two years ago with drugs she bought online. According to an opinion poll by Amnesty International, however, more than three quarters of people in the country want abortion to be available in cases of rape and incest and when the foetus will not survive outside the womb.

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