Abortion services suspended in Western Trust

Abortion services in the Western Health Trust have been suspended. 

The trust says it can "no longer deliver early medical abortions due of staffing issues”.

Abortion laws have been in place in Northern Ireland for over a year now. 

But full the range of services have not yet been commissioned because of arguments in the Executive.

Despite this, some are available. 

All of Northern Ireland's health trusts have been delivering early medical abortions of up to 10 weeks. 

On Friday one of them, the Western Health Trust, said it cannot continue to operate the service at the moment.

“The Western Health and Social Care Trust have had to temporarily pause the delivery of the Early Medical Abortion Service,” a statement from the trust said.

“Referrals for this service can no longer be accepted from 5.00pm on Friday 23 April 2021 until further notice.

“The trust requires additional nursing and medical support in order to deliver this service and are actively exploring all options in respect of this. 

“The trust apologises for any concern this may cause and can assure the public that we are continuing to work towards minimising any disruption this will cause in the interim period.”

Grainne Teggart from Amnesty International said: “At the minute, what we have is a postcode lottery for abortion provision in Northern Ireland.

"Depending on the health trust you live in will depend on the access to the service you receive.

"What we are seeing is our health trusts come under pressure to provide those services because of the failure of our health minister to commission and properly resource those services."

Health Minister Robin Swann has already made it clear that he will not commission the services without the approval of the Executive.

The Northern Ireland Office said: “The interim Early Medical Abortion service, which has been in place since 2020 in the place of centrally commissioned services, has proved fragile and there has already been service disruption in two trusts due to resourcing issues.

"The Northern Ireland Office’s strong preference remains for the Northern Ireland Department of Health and the Northern Ireland Executive to take responsibility for commissioning these services and it is a matter of regret that they haven’t yet done so and there is a need to take these steps to deliver on our shared moral and legal obligations."

The secretary of state is facing legal action from the Human Rights Commission over the delay in services here. 

Last month, Brandon Lewis took new powers to compel Stormont to implement the laws. 

That is set to be debated in Westminster next week - but it is likely Mr Lewis will intervene before the whole issue ends up in court.