- Twitter / @stellacreasy
LONDON – The UK government has agreed to fund abortions for Northern Irish women in England and Wales, Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed on Thursday afternoon.
In a major concession to opposition Labour MPs, Theresa May’s Conservative government has agreed to allow Northern Irish women to use the NHS for abortions, just hours before MPs were set to vote on an amendment calling on the government to do so.
Labour MP Stella Creasy on Thursday tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for the government to extend NHS funding to Northern Irish women who wish to have abortions in England and Wales.
Abortion is currently illegal in Northern Ireland and women there wanting an abortion elsewhere in the United Kingdom are not allowed to do so via the NHS, despite being UK taxpayers.
The amendment was set to be debated in the Commons today along with other amendments tabled by opposition MPs. Creasy told the Huff Po that it had attracted support from enough MPs to inflict a defeat on the government.
However, the government has agreed to the demands set out in Creasy’s amendment, sparing Theresa May the prospect of her first ever defeat in a parliamentary vote as prime minister.
“At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment, and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen,” Minister for Women & Equalities Justine Greening said in a letter to MPs.
Here it is pic.twitter.com/d8YMC1y1dw
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) June 29, 2017
The amendment is still due to be debated later this afternoon but Creasy is likely to withdraw it in response to the government’s decision. This move represents a major climbdown by the government, which just this morning was instructing ministers to say this would not happen despite pressure from Creasy and other MPs.
Creasy tweeted shortly after the announcement:
Thank you to MPs on all sides who supported call for change to help northern Irish women have equal access to abortion #MyPledgeHerChoice
— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) June 29, 2017
All 10 DUP MPs were set to support the government in voting against the amendment, but a significant number of Tory MPs were reportedly planning to support Creasy’s call for extending abortion rights to Northern Irish women.
This is how some of Creasy’s Labour colleagues reacted to the news:
To say I am proud of @stellacreasy today would be a gross understatement
— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) June 29, 2017
— Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) June 29, 2017
MPs will debate amendments relating to domestic policy and Brexit this afternoon before voting this evening.