In my new role as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I’ve written to my counterpart, Brandon Lewis, urging him to lift restrictions on early medical home abortion. These restrictions are placing women and healthcare workers in unnecessary risk during the coronavirus crisis.
New laws allowing access to abortion up to 12 weeks in Northern Ireland came into force last month, but the regulations determined by Westminster restrict access to healthcare settings only.
At the same time, stringent public health restrictions to tackle coronavirus mean that pregnant women, particularly those self-isolating, must strictly observe rules to stay at home.
That’s why Labour is calling on the Government to ease the restrictions in Northern Ireland and allow women access to early medical home abortion medication following an e-consultation or call with a doctor.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Ministers in England, Wales and Scotland have already allowed access to early medical home abortion temporarily.
I recognise the acute sensitivity of this debate, the difficult questions the Secretary of State is wrestling with, and the strongly held views across Northern Ireland. But in this extraordinary public health crisis the health of women, healthcare workers and the community must come first.
The restrictions in place in Northern Ireland are taking an unnecessary, untenable risk with the health of women, their families and health professionals during this crisis.
I urge Brandon Lewis to act, amend the regulations, and in this extraordinary public health crisis allow women – even if temporarily – to access the medicine and consultations from their own home. This will keep them and the community safe.