Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Chancellor: Government to fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen

The Government intends to fund abortions in England for women arriving from Northern Ireland, where it is illegal, Chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

Unlike the rest of the UK, abortions can only be carried out in Northern Ireland where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger.

Anyone who performs an illegal termination could be jailed for life.

Mr Hammond's announcement follows a proposed amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for the Government to ensure adequate funding to allow women from Northern Ireland to have abortions in England without being charged.

Abortions can only be carried out in Northern Ireland where the life or mental health of the mother is in danger. Credit: PA

Previously women from Northern Ireland would have to spend £1,400 to get an abortion in England.

Mr Hammond said the issue of abortion was "a matter of great importance" and that Justine Greening, the Minister for Women and Equalities, would be making an announcement "by way of a letter to members of this House explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland".

He said he hoped the House would find it a "sensible way of dealing with this challenge".

Commons Speaker John Bercow confirmed he has selected the amendment to the Government's legislative programme, meaning MPs will have a chance to vote on it at the conclusion of the Queen's Speech debate.

Pro-choice campaigner Sarah Ewart (left), who had to travel to England for an abortion due to fatal foetal abnormality. Credit: PA

The Government was under pressure to look at the issue after Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) tabled the amendment, which has cross-party support.

Sir Peter Bottomley, who backed the amendment, asked Mr Hammond whether "only the poor" women of Northern Ireland "should be denied lawful abortions".

Mr Hammond said: "I know this is a matter of great importance to members on both sides of the House and an issue which I know my colleagues on the Treasury bench have been looking for a solution to.

"My understanding is that my Right Honourable Friend, the Minister for Women and Equalities, either has made, or is just about to make, an announcement by way of a letter to members of this House explaining that she intends to intervene to fund abortions in England for women arriving here from Northern Ireland."

Extra funding will be provided to cover the costs of the abortions.

Mr Hammond's pledge came as an appeal court ruled that abortion law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly and not judges.

It said the complex moral and religious questions behind the issue were not for balanced and impartial judges to decide.