Northern Ireland abortion: Charity which provides ‘only pathway’ to services at risk of collapse, says Amnesty International

The failure of Stormont to commission full abortion services is resulting in the imminent collapse of a charity which has been described as “the only local pathway” to early medical abortion services in Northern Ireland, it is claimed.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 8:29 am

Amnesty International, which has been campaigning to liberalise abortion access in NI has spoken out in defend of Informing Choices NI, which was set up in April last year 2020.

The charity offers information and support across a range of sexual health issues including contraception and sexually transmitted infections and its helpline also acts as the central access point into local abortion care in Northern Ireland

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaign Manager, said that a report on early medical abortions in NI published this week by Informing Choices NI has shown that almost 2200 women between 15 April 2020 to 14 April 2021 contacted the charity about an unplanned or crisis pregnancy.

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Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International.
Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International.

Amnesty says that despite “an obvious need” for the service, the charity this week confirmed it will cease to operate on October 1 due to the Health Minister’s failure to commission services - unless funding is secured by that date.

“The Health Minister’s failure to commission services has directly led to the impending collapse of the only local pathway we have into early medical abortion services,” she said. “It is the Minister’s job to remove barriers to healthcare, not create them. “Early medical abortion access is on a cliff edge. The Secretary of State must act now to direct the commissioning services before it is too late.””

A Department of Health spokesperson said it is considering a funding request from Informing Choices NI.

“The Department has written to the Northern Ireland Office in relation to the funding required to support the provision of abortion services,” the department said. “Healthcare professionals are required to follow guidance from their relevant professional regulatory bodies on the issue of conscientious objection.”

Informing Choices NI says the Health Minister is still signposting women to its service.

Director of Advocacy and Policy, Ruairi Rowan, said: “Since ICNI began providing the central access point we have made repeated attempts to engage with the Health Minister about its sustainability and development. In doing so we have made clear that an unfunded service of this scale cannot run indefinitely. Despite these repeated warnings we have received no response, despite the Minister publicly signposting women seeking local abortion access to our service.”

But Mark Lambe of Abolish Abortion NI said that despite 335,000 people on waiting lists for a first appointment with a consultant, “trusts in NI have managed to scrape together funding, resources and staffing in order to provide abortions within a matter of days of a person requesting them”. He added: “Let’s be clear. Abortion is not healthcare. It is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. It has no place in our healthcare clinics, our hospitals or our society.”

Abolish Abortion NI has called on incoming DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldon to take a stand on abortion.

MPs have legislated to relax NI’s strict abortion laws and empower the Secretary of State to commission the full commissioning of services across NI.

The lobby group said yesterday: “As an organisation that represents people across all evangelical Christian denominations in NI we are calling on the next leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, not to nominate a first minister until control over our abortion laws is once again returned to the place where it belongs - Stormont.”

“We remain in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. We have some of the worst waiting lists for medical care on these islands. My own elderly father has just spent 24 hours in A&E, on a chair, having had a suspected heart attack. The Northern Ireland health service is battling to save lives. And despite the fact that abortion rates have approximately doubled since the law change, supposed human rights groups remain zealously committed to ever more abortion access. In doing so they have chosen, if not constructed their own false cliff edge to focus on.

Dawn McAvoy of pro-life alliance Both Lives Matter said: “We remain in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. We have some of the worst waiting lists for medical care on these islands. My own elderly father has just spent 24 hours in A&E, on a chair, having had a suspected heart attack. The Northern Ireland health service is battling to save lives. And despite the fact that abortion rates have approximately doubled since the law change, supposed human rights groups remain zealously committed to ever more abortion access. In doing so they have chosen, if not constructed their own false cliff edge to focus on.”

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