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Northern Ireland Office may directly instruct trusts to offer abortion services

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Northern Ireland Office may directly instruct trusts to offer abortion services

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Office may directly instruct trusts to offer abortion services

Exclusive: Brandon Lewis warns he will soon have ‘no alternative but to take further steps’ to ensure services are provided

Brandon Lewis

Earlier this year, Lewis said he would take unprecedented action and use parliament to give himself new powers to commission the services. Stormont has been formally directed to commission the services before the end of March 2022, but there has been little material improvement.

A high court judge ruled this month that Lewis had failed to uphold his duties to provide full abortion services in Northern Ireland after a judicial review was brought by a woman told to travel to England for an abortion during the pandemic.

Lewis said earlier he was disappointed in the ruling, adding that he had been the only party to take steps to try to force the executive to provide the services.

In the letter leaked to the Guardian, Lewis warned Givan and O’Neill he was prepared to take further unprecedented intervention in Northern Ireland’s health service, saying it was “entirely unacceptable” to attempt to block a legal duty.

“I firmly believe that there is also a moral duty to women and girls to ensure they are afforded their fundamental human rights – the same rights afforded to women and girls in the rest of the UK,” he wrote.

“The executive cannot continue to delay in this matter and the court could well conclude that a decision not to agree to proposals for the commissioning of services breaches article 8 of the ECHR.”

Lewis said he agreed with the judge who called the delay “dispiriting”.

“In fact, I would go further. Those in public office must comply with their legal obligations whether or not they agree with the law in question,” he wrote in the letter.

Lewis said if it became “clear to me” that the Department of Health or executive were “not making sufficient progress, or are intent on blocking this issue, I will have no alternative but to take further steps to ensure that women and girls have access to abortion services as decided by parliament, and to which they have a right”.

Topics

  • Northern Ireland
  • Abortion
  • Women’s health
  • Health
  • Women
  • news
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Published at Wed, 27 Oct 2021 08:08:09 +0000

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/oct/27/northern-ireland-office-may-directly-instruct-trusts-to-offer-abortion-services

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