Abortion Rights Blog

The national pro-choice campaign

Press Release: Scotland considers giving free abortions to NI women


Abortion Rights have welcomed comments made by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, regarding the possibility of provision, by NHS Scotland, of abortion services for women travelling from Northern Ireland.


The matter was raised by Patrick Harvie MSP at First Ministers Questions on Thursday (17 November 2016). He asked the First Minister whether she agreed that, “the national health service in Scotland should be exploring what can be done to ensure that those women are able to access abortion in Scotland, if that is where they choose to travel to, without facing that kind of unacceptable financial barrier”?

Ms Sturgeon confirmed that she would explore the matter with the NHS in terms of what the situation is now and whether any improvements can be made.

At present women abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless there is a direct threat to the mother’s life if the pregnancy continues. In November 2015, a High Court Judge ruled the laws breach human rights legislation, however this year the Northern Ireland Assembly voted to keep the ban regardless.

At present, the UK Supreme Court is currently considering an application from a Northern Irish teenager who had to go to England to terminate a pregnancy. She is challenging the NHS’s refusal to fund abortions for women from Northern Ireland.

Jillian Merchant of Abortion Rights Scottish Committee said, “We very much welcome the comments made the First Minister and look forward to hearing the outcome of her discussions with NHS Scotland”.

 “We were also heartened to hear Nicola Sturgeon confirm her support for a woman’s right to choose and that abortion services should be provided in a safe and legal way like any other healthcare procedure”. 



Notes to the Editor:

  1. Media contact for comment and interviews Jillian Merchant (07969691618)
  2. Abortion is legal in England, Scotland and Wales provided two doctors agree the procedure is in the patient’s best interest. Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk. There were only 23 terminations of pregnancy in HSC hospitals in Northern Ireland during 2013/14.
  3. Read our full position statement on Northern Ireland
  4. More than 75% of Scots are in favour of supporting abortion. http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/family-relationships/scots-back-womens-right-choose-6154265
  5. Abortion Rights has a Scottish Committee and local groups around Scotland. http://www.abortionrights.org.uk/category/local-groups/abortion-rights-committee-scotland/