Updated April 2020 People resident in Northern Ireland can (finally, finally, finally) now access free abortion in Northern Ireland through a service currently run (as of 24 April 2020) by Informing Choices NI (formerly the Northern Irish Family Planning Association). Informing Choices can signpost people to providers of early medical abortion pills within Northern Ireland up to 9 weeks 6 days pregnant. While we hope that surgical abortions will someday happen in Northern Ireland, in the interim those more than 10 weeks pregnant can travel to England for a surgical abortion.
What does this mean, practically, for ASN and those who may seek out ASN? We’re glad you asked…
This is amazing news. Does this mean ASN can close?
Yes it is, and alas no. Clients from Northern Ireland have been about 20% of ASN clients for the past three years. The pregnant people of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, and as of 2019 Malta and Gibraltar and Poland still need our help! Also, ASN will still be here for the women in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who fall through any cracks in the government scheme, and will continue to be here until there is free, safe, legal abortion in all the countries we serve.
What will women from Northern Ireland get for free?
A consultation and, if they so choose, an abortion in Northern Ireland or England. Other services include HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing as appropriate and an offer of contraception where appropriate. Treatment will be free at point of delivery.
What about travel and accommodation costs?
Help with travel costs will be available for both the person requiring treatment, and in certain cases, a parent/guardian or carer.
How will it work?
People should contact Informing Choices NI as a first point of contact. Or, if they are more than 10 weeks pregnant from the first day of their last period, they can skip this step and contact the Central Booking System at bpas.
What about Scotland? Will ASN be helping women go there, too?
While Scotland will be providing free abortions for women resident in Northern Ireland, there is no provision for travel costs for those facing financial hardship. In addition, there is not currently a one day service available to those travelling, which would mean it could take up to a week in Scotland for treatment. If you want to know more about travelling to Scotland, you can see the pathway information here.
Again, England is the easier pathway. However if you someone really wants a termination in Wales, they are welcome to ask the Central Booking System to help them arrange one.
But since Ireland has legal abortion people in Northern Ireland can go to Ireland for abortions, right?
Yes, they can, but it won’t be free, or easy. Abortions in the Republic of Ireland require at least two and possibly visits to healthcare professionals, over a minimum of four days. Provision in Ireland after 9 weeks (and it’s only legal on request to 12 weeks) and after that people will need to be seen in hospital. It will still be less expensive, and, in most cases, more convenient, for those in Northern Ireland to go to England for a one day service than to the Republic of Ireland for a 4 or more day service.
Does this mean ASN will need less money as there will be fewer clients coming through the service?
Any money we “save” by not spending it on Northern Irish clients will mean that our clients from other jurisdictions will have to struggle less to raise funds to supplement the grants ASN is able to give. With your continued support, we hope to be able to give bigger grants to more clients.
These are exciting and changing times. ASN will continue to rely on the generosity of supporters like you to maintain our ability to support those who need us. As long as our phone continues to ring, and you’re still with us, we’ll be here to help.