The Government has recently announced that payment for abortions for Northern Irish women in the NHS will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding.
This development does not alter the fact that the provision of abortion in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue, and the responsibility of politicians in Northern Ireland. The funding of NHS abortion services for Northern Irish women by the Government Equalities Office ensures these women safe access to legal abortions in England, without compromising the devolution of NHS services in the UK.
In regards to the case of the mother being prosecuted under the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act in Northern Ireland, a judge in Belfast has granted permission for a judicial review to be heard over the prosecution of the mother, as he believed that the case raised issues of considerable public importance and public debate. This will now be held in the autumn.
The Irish referendum has undoubtedly reinvigorated debate within Northern Ireland, but it is important to be clear that the referendum was specific to Ireland, where a change to their written constitution requires a referendum.
In accordance with the Belfast Agreement, this is a devolved matter which should be addressed in the Northern Ireland Assembly. If this issue were to be raised in Westminster, the Government's policy is to allow a free vote on matters of conscience such as equal marriage.
It is my personal belief that this should remain a matter for the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives.