NI women can come south for abortions, says minister

The Republica's health minister Simon Harris
The Republica's health minister Simon Harris

A DUP MP has warned that a move by Dublin to allow women from Northern Ireland to travel south for abortions will be used by campaigners to try and liberalise the laws here.

Gregory Campbell was speaking after the Republic of Ireland’s health minister, Simon Harris, announced his intention to allow women from Northern Ireland to access abortions in the Republic.

The Irish premier, Leo Varadkar, had already said in May that he could see no reason why women from Northern Ireland would be prevented from travelling south for abortions.

“We do have people who already come to our hospitals from Northern Ireland for healthcare so I imagine it will be treated as a normal part of our health service,” Mr Varadkar said.

But Mr Harris has now taken that a step further, confirming his intention to introduce legislation.

Speaking at Féile an Phobail in Belfast on Tuesday, he was quoted by the Irish Times newspaper as saying: “In recent months the Irish people have addressed this issue through our referendum to repeal the 8th amendment. I now intend to bring in legislation to give effect to this decision in the autumn.

“In the meantime, I intend to ensure women from Northern Ireland can access such services in the Republic, just like they can access other health services here.”

East Londonderry MP Campbell said that while the issue of allowing abortions in the south was “entirely a matter for the Republic’s government”, he warned the move would be of concern to “many people in Northern Ireland”.

“There is a concern amongst a wide group of people that whatever the individual merits of a standalone move by the Republic, by England or anywhere else, about abortion, that that standalone act is not the end of the matter,” he said.

“The campaigners — those who are in favour of liberalising abortion law and who call themselves abortion law reform activists — what they normally do is ask for what might be seen as a small scale, individual legislative change.

“What tends to happen is that that’s banked, and two, or three, or five years later the campaigners come back and ask for another change.”

He continued: “It is a creeping liberalisation of abortion law. Once that small change is granted, the pro-abortion lobby come back with a new demand. That is the fear that a lot of people have in Northern Ireland.”

Asked if he believed campaigners would use minister Harris’ move to push for abortion reform here, Mr Campbell said: “I can envisage that at one stage, and then there will be another campaign, and another stage, and the next thing you know you have abortion on demand.”