Before Thursday, women in Northern Ireland paid the same tax, but didn’t have the same access to healthcare. Namely that the 1967 Abortion Act hasn’t been extended to Northern Ireland, so under the much older Offences Against the Persons Act of 1861, procuring an abortion for yourself or someone else is punishable by a life sentence.
So instead, 2 women every day, including those where the foetus has no chance of living or could harm the women, travel from Northern Ireland to London or Liverpool or Glasgow for an abortion and then fly back home paying £500-£2000 privately for their procedure as well as travel and accommodation fees.
Abortions have been legal for 50 years and something that one in three women will have in their lifetimes, having access to legal abortions on the NHS makes them safe and accessible no matter your circumstances. The amendment to the Queen’s Speech brought by Stella Creasy MP has not changed that, and indeed all women are still subject to criminal prosecutions over their abortion if they don’t meet the criteria of the ’67 Act. But now after a landmark victory for Northern Irish women’s pockets, the cost of the abortion, which is free on the NHS, is now free for those travelling from Northern Ireland as well.
Tory partners, the DUP are fervently against abortion, so this amendment highlights how divided the House of Commons is, but for now, this is a victory for all women but particularly working class women who often struggle to meet the costs.