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Humanists UK calls for easy access for Northern Ireland women to abortion in Wales

Take Action! You can respond to the Welsh Government’s consultation on the provision for Northern Ireland women accessing abortion services in Wales. You can read Humanists UK’s response to help you draft your own. Deadline is Friday 9 February.

Humanists UK and its section Wales Humanists has called upon the Welsh Government to make provision to alleviate the additional burdens placed upon women normally resident in Northern Ireland who travel to Wales to access abortion services. The Welsh Government is currently consulting on how to abolish charges of up to £2,000 imposed upon Northern Ireland women accessing these services on the NHS. Humanists UK, who successfully lobbied the Welsh Government to abolish these charges in 2017, has called for this change to go further, offering Northern Ireland women in Wales parity of treatment with England and Scotland where bursaries for travel and other expenses are being introduced.

In July 2017, the First Minister for Wales Carwyn Jones announced that Wales would join England and Scotland in funding abortion services for women travelling from Northern Ireland. However, the current proposals by the Welsh Government to implement this change are framed on providing parity of access with Welsh women, in waiving the normal residency criteria for accessing these services. This does not recognise the particular set of circumstances and burdens facing women from Northern Ireland travelling to the UK, which are not experienced by women living in Wales.

These burdens include travel and accommodation expenses, which can be a significant burden for low income women living in Northern Ireland, as well as difficulties managing aftercare and gaining a referral from doctors in Northern Ireland. These barriers to access could be reduced if the Welsh Government introduces a central booking system for women from Northern Ireland in which they or their GP can easily refer and book services in Wales, and through which they can be refunded for expenses for travel and accommodation. Such a system should also provide an ongoing line of communication between the women and the abortion service provider in order to manage the aftercare of the procedure.

Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘We welcome the free provision of services to Northern Ireland women as a hugely positive step. But we think it is imperative that this is not all Wales offers.

‘In October the then UK Women and Equalities Minister Justine Greening announced that Northern Ireland women with low incomes travelling to England for abortion services would be able to apply for funding to cover the cost of travel between Northern Ireland and England. A similar provision is being considered in Scotland. There is no reason why provision should not be made in Wales. The Welsh Government abolished NHS charges in order to make these services accessible. Recognising that there are still unique and substantial burdens facing Northern Ireland women is the next step towards achieving adequate service provision.’

Notes

For further comment or information contact Rachel Taggart-Ryan, Campaigns Officer at rachel@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3065.

Read Humanists UK’s consultation response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018-01-24-RTR-Welsh-Government-consultation-on-abortion-for-Northern-Ireland-women.pdf 

Access the Welsh Government’s consultation here: https://consultations.gov.wales/node/11485/respond-online

Read more about our abortion campaign work: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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