FPA welcomes the announcement today by the UK government that women in Northern Ireland who earn less than £15,276 will no longer have to struggle to raise funds to travel across the Irish Sea for abortion care.
Justine Greening, Minister for Equalities, today presented a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons, outlining how women in Northern Ireland will be able to access free abortion services in England.
The statement outlines the government's plans for a central booking system, through which women can book their appointments for abortion care. Women on a low income will also be able to book travel and – where clinically necessary – accommodation through the same system.
Once the scheme is up and running, a parent, carer or guardian who accompanies a woman eligible for support with travel costs will also have their travel costs paid for.
The government will be putting the management of this system out to tender, and say they hope it will be up and running by the end of the year. In the meantime, an interim travel scheme has been put in place. This is being run by abortion care providers, and more details will be available shortly.
If you live in Northern Ireland and need to access abortion care in England, you can contact abortion care providers directly for more information about the interim travel scheme, and to book an appointment.
You can also call FPA’s helpline for information and support, or to book an appointment for pregnancy choices counselling at our office in central Belfast.
Laura Russell, Policy Manager for the sexual health charity FPA, said:
“This is a very welcome step in the right direction. Women living in Northern Ireland are UK citizens and taxpayers, but until just a few months ago they had to pay privately to access abortion care in England - the same healthcare that women living in England can access for free.
"Having to raise urgent funds can mean that women are forced to disclose their decision to have an abortion, a situation we see through our counselling service in Northern Ireland.
“So we congratulate the government on lifting a major obstacle to UK citizens accessing essential healthcare. But the fact remains that women still have to cross the sea to get healthcare which they should be able to get at home – it’s time for this to change.
“For women who need information and support, you can call FPA's helpline in Northern Ireland on 0345 122 8687, or contact the Abortion Support Network if you need financial assistance on 07897 611593.”
For counselling and support services in Northern Ireland, you can call FPA (the Family Planning Association) on 0345 122 8687 from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays). We will be able to give you information and support, and you can book an appointment for pregnancy choices counselling at our office in central Belfast.
If you are struggling to access funding for travel or accommodation, Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance and confidential, non-judgmental information on travel. You can call them on 07897 611593.
If you need to access abortion care services in England you can contact the following abortion care providers, where you will be able to access services for free, and get more information about interim travel arrangements:
British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas)
bpas operates over 70 abortion care clinics around England. You can call their 24 hour phone line on 03457 30 40 30 to book an appointment or make an enquiry. If you are deaf or hard of hearing with a textphone, call the bpas textphone on 0345 365 1450
National Unplanned Pregnancy Advisory Service (NUPAS)
NUPAS runs clinics in Birmingham, Stoke, Greater Manchester and Greater London. To book an appointment or make an enquiry call 0333 004 6666
Marie Stopes UK
Marie Stopes UK operates over 70 clinics in England, and their advice line is open 24 hours. Call them on 0345 300 3737 to book an appointment or make an enquiry