FSRH statement: Government announces the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland

Posted 25 October 2022

Date: 25 Oct 2022

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

We strongly welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, that the Government will work to ensure the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland. This is a huge victory for women in the region, healthcare professionals providing care and the wider reproductive healthcare community. However, it is crucial that services are fully-funded without further delay.

On the three-year anniversary of the decriminalisation of abortion care in Northern Ireland, and following the publication of a legal regulatory framework in 2020, the UK Government has published a statement setting out its intention to commission abortion services in Northern Ireland. It states that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will meet with the Chief Executives of Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks “to ensure these services can be provided”.

We strongly welcome this announcement, which follows years of campaigning from across the sexual and reproductive healthcare community. Some abortion services are currently available in Northern Ireland; however, the services that do exist face the constant threat of collapse due to a lack of commissioning and adequate funding to date. On Friday 21 October, we signed up to an open letter to the Secretary of State calling for action on this issue.

In the statement, the Government commits to ensuring appropriate funding is available to implement abortion services. However, it also states that it remains the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive to fund services.

Dr Helen Munro, Vice-President for Clinical Quality at the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare strongly welcomes today’s announcement from the Secretary of State.

For too long, women in Northern Ireland have been without a comprehensive, fully-funded abortion care service – forcing many to travel for care. Doctors, along with other healthcare professionals, have worked to provide interim services without sufficient support. We have been clear that this situation is untenable.

All women should have access to safe and local abortion care, wherever they live. We strongly welcome today’s announcement which follows years of calls and dedicated work from key voices in the reproductive healthcare community as well as those working to deliver care on the ground.

I particularly wanted to highlight the work of the members of the FSRH Northern Ireland Committee who have worked tirelessly with their trusts and the Government over the past three years on this issue.

As a membership body whose members work on the frontlines of abortion care, we support calls for a truly comprehensive, holistic sexual and reproductive health service for everyone in Northern Ireland. This is an important step towards achieving this."

Dr Eveane Cubitt, Chair of the FSRH Northern Ireland Committee:

“I welcome the Secretary of Statement’s announcement regarding commissioning of the full range of abortion care services in Northern Ireland.

I would urge the Government to ensure funding is provided for setting up of a full service without any further delay, bearing in mind that there has already been a three-year delay following the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.”


For further information, please contact: Catrin Hughes, External Affairs and APPG Manager, at chughes@fsrh.org

Notes to Editors

 You can read the ministerial statement on the commissioning of abortion services here: Written statements - Written questions, answers and statements - UK Parliament

About FSRH

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the leader in the field of sexual and reproductive healthcare, and we are the voice for professionals working in this area. As a multi-disciplinary professional membership organisation, we set clinical guidance and standards, provide training and lifelong education, and champion safe and effective sexual and reproductive healthcare across the life course for all.