The government’s decision to offer children under the age of 16 from Northern Ireland access to free abortions in England – in some cases without parental consent – has been slammed by a senior DUP MP.
Woman from the Province no longer have to pay for terminations on the NHS in England, following plans announced by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening last month.
And, as revealed by the News Letter yesterday, minors from Northern Ireland seeking the fully-funded procedures can do so without permission from their parents, as long as certain conditions are met.
One of these guidelines, outlined by the Law Lords, states that the young person “understands the advice and has sufficient maturity to understand what is involved”.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said his party had “never been happy” with the arrangement put in place by the government to extend state-funded terminations to women in NI.
He added that the policy change was “going against the wishes of” the people of Northern Ireland.
When the News Letter informed him that the offer also extended to under-16s, Mr Wilson said: “This opens up a whole range of issue, not least of which is child protection. There is also surely a criminal element to consider, as girls under-16 are below the age of consent.”
The East Antrim MP also said that allowing some girls to travel to England for a termination without their parents’ consent was “undermining the role of parenthood”.
Hundreds of women travel across the Irish Sea for terminations each year, as NI is the only part of the UK where abortion remains illegal, except in very limited cases.
Back in June, MPs from the major parties – including a number of Tory MPS – backed a call by Labour MP Stella Creasy for the NHS to fund abortions for NI women.
As a result, the Tories were forced into a dramatic last-minute climb down just hours before a crunch vote threatened to derail the Queen’s Speech.
When asked how the policy change on abortion would impact the DUP’s alliance with the minority Tory government, Mr Wilson said: “We have a confidence and supply deal with the Conservative Party, but that does not mean we are committed to support them in everything they do or even to stay silent when we strongly disagree with them on something.
“This is one issue we are totally opposed to and we spoke out about it at the time, but unfortunately we were not in a position to stop it.”