Scotland’s First Minister is “very sympathetic” to the idea of NHS Scotland covering the cost of abortions for Northern Irish women who travel across.
Responding to a question from the Scottish Greens yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am happy to explore that with the NHS”.
Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland, as the Act which legalised it in the rest of the UK does not apply there.
Responding to the move, The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer, Callum Webster, said:
“If Nicola Sturgeon was to allow this to take place, she would be undermining the democratic process of Northern Ireland.
“The law here is clear – abortion is a criminal offence. The law protects mothers and their babies. The public and the Assembly will not accept any attempt to sideline them.
“I trust that MLAs will continue to stand firm in protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Speaking at Holyrood yesterday, Scottish Green party co-convener Patrick Harvie asked: “Does the First Minister agree that the NHS in Scotland should be exploring what can be done to ensure that these women are able to access abortion in Scotland…?”
Mrs Sturgeon responded: “I am happy to explore that with the NHS”, adding: “I believe, like Patrick Harvie, that women should have the right to choose”.
A spokesman for the First Minister later confirmed that she is “very sympathetic” to Mr Harvie’s suggestion.
Sanctity of life upheld
In February this year, Northern Ireland Assembly members rejected proposals to liberalise the law on abortion.
MLAs voted 59 to 40 against amending legislation to allow abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, and 64 to 32 against allowing abortion in cases of sexual crime.
At the time, Callum Webster said: “It is heartening that the majority of MLAs have voted to uphold the sanctity of life today at Stormont. There has been a media campaign to undermine the legal protections afforded to our unborn children, but thankfully politicians have resisted that co-ordinated pressure.
“Abortion is not good healthcare for women. Instead we need to look at improving perinatal hospice care provision for babies with very limited life expectancies”.