Northern Irish women gain access to free abortion on the NHS

Stella Creasy MP led the campaign for an amendment in the law ahead of a government debate

Northern Ireland

Stella Creasy MP led the campaign for an amendment in the law ahead of a government debate

In a huge win for women's rights in the UK, the government has announced it will give women in Northern Ireland access to free terminations on the NHS in Great Britain.

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, led the campaign for an amendment to the law, ahead of a debate on the Queen's speech, which was initially set to go to a vote at 5pm today. Following strong cross-party support, the government conceded to the amendment before the planned vote, after more than 100 MPs from the major parties backed it.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) told the BBC that the amendment was a 'landmark moment'.

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Stella Creasy and fellow MPs in support of the amendment, used the hashtag #mypledgeherchoice on Twitter to raise awareness. Tulip Siddiq stated 'this is not a devolved issue' and called on the government to make a change.

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Until now, women from Northern Ireland accessing abortion in Great Britain were forced to pay about £900 for the procedure. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have an abortion legally there. Even in cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities abortions remain illegal.

As recently as January 2017, The Guardian reported how a Northern Irish woman was prosecuted for obtaining abortion pills for her underage pregnant daughter. She was was reported to police by her GP.

Pro-choice campaigners welcomed today's concession, although some pointed out that women from Northern Ireland would still have to incur the cost and inconvenience of travelling to the UK for the procedure. Following the concession, Stella Creasy pledged that she would be 'standing with my Northern Irish sisters to help them win their rights at home too.'

Rosie Benson