Western Health Trust suspends abortion provision - Alliance Party calls for Secretary of State intervention

The Alliance Party has urged the Secretary of State to intervene after the Western Health Trust suspended all abortion services.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 2:22 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 4:19 pm

In a statement to the News Letter the trust said the suspension was “until further notice” and due to resource issues.

A spokesman for the trust said: “The Western Health and Social Care Trust have had to temporarily pause the delivery of the Early Medical Abortion Service (EMA).

“Referrals for this service can no longer be accepted from 5.00pm on Friday 23rd April 2021 until further notice.

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Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw.

“The Trust requires additional nursing and medical support in order to deliver this service and are actively exploring all options in respect of this. The Trust apologises for any concern this may cause and can assure the public that we are continuing to work towards minimising any disruption this will cause in the interim period.”

But Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw said the Western Trust’s decision to suspend their early medical abortion service justifies the intervention of the Secretary of State to ensure the law is upheld and services are provided.

Last month Secretary of State Brandon Lewis gave himself new legal powers to direct any minister, department of health body in Northern Ireland to carry out actions to implement UN recommendations for Northern Ireland on abortion provision.

However he has said he would prefer not to use the powers and hopes the NI Executive will meet the requirements voluntarity.

MPs controversially relaxed abortion legislation in Northern Ireland in 2019 while the assembly was suspended - a move narrowly rejected by MLAs in a non-binding vote soon after.

However the Executive parties have been divided ever since on commissioning the provision of full abortion services across Northern Ireland’s NHS and little has changed on the ground.

Ms Bradshaw said: “The Trust said it would stop accepting referrals for early medical abortion services from 5pm today (Friday).

“The suspension of the early medical abortion service by the Western Trust merely demonstrates the failure of the health authorities to provide adequate resources towards the implementation of the law in Northern Ireland.

“It is unacceptable one year after regulations took effect, services are, if anything, being cut back.

“We cannot continue with a stop-start provision of healthcare to women. This is exactly why the Secretary of State has to intervene to ensure the statutory duty in law is upheld to implement the regulations as they stand, and ensure universal access to healthcare and support across Northern Ireland.”

Today also marks the initial stage of a judicial review by pro-life group CBR NI against the Secretary of State’s decision to grant himself such far reaching legal powers over the NI Executive.

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