New life in an auld relationship? The Scottish government may pay for Northern Ireland abortions

A tentative move to erode the prohibitive position over abortion in Northern Ireland may become a landmark shift, now that the issue has been raised.  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is open to the suggestion  as reported by the Guardian, that woman from Northern Ireland could have abortions performed free in Scotland under NHS devolution.

I am happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in NHS Scotland and whether any improvements can be made.

Last November, a high court judge ruled that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws violated the rights of women and girls in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities or where a pregnancy was the result of a sexual crime.

An estimated 2,000 women a year have to raise the money to travel to private English clinics and hospitals from Northern Ireland to have terminations.

The Supreme Court in London is currently considering an application from a Northern Irish teenager who, as a15-year-old, had to go to England to terminate a pregnancy. She is challenging the NHS’s refusal to fund abortions for women from Northern Ireland.

The local reaction is predictable. The Belfast Telegraph reports that DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was disappointed in Ms Sturgeon for seeking to “interfere in what is a very sensitive issue here in Northern Ireland”.

“The Northern Ireland Executive would never consider interfering in Scottish internal affairs,” the Lagan Valley MP told the Belfast Telegraph.

“And I really do think the Scottish First Minister should concentrate on sorting out the economic problems in Scotland and leave Northern Ireland to sort out its own issues.

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said she would adopt a “wait and see” attitude towards the announcement, although the party remained opposed to relaxing the law in Northern Ireland.

“We are also awaiting the outcome of a review into the guidelines governing abortion in Northern Ireland,” the South Down MP added.

“We have to await the outcome of what the First Minister of Scotland said, what the extent of her explorations is, and the outcome of the current review of guidelines.”


, , , , , ,

  • Zorin001

    You would have thought the DUP would consider this a win-win as they could still ship the problem across the water and hope this provides enough of an outlet that the issue might subside.

  • hgreen

    If you are in a car accident in Scotland does the Scottish NHS bill the N.I. NHS for your treatment? If not I see no reason why the NHS anywhere in the U.K. should not be providing free abortion services to women from N.I..

  • Korhomme

    My understanding is this, based on a case that went to the Court in England. It was determined that, as health is a devolved issue, the NHS in NI could refuse to pay for abortions performed in England for women from NI.

    I guess that likewise, the NHS in NI could refuse to pay for abortions in Scotland, if they were billed for the service. And that may be the nub of the issue.

  • Interesting to see Jeffrey Donaldson talking up the north’s independence on this matter considering the DUP’s usual guff about a UK-wide family of nations. It’s “internal affairs” when it suits them.

  • Slater

    NHS England should just bill the NI Health Service as they would for any other surgical procedure on someone registered with a NI GP.

  • Korhomme

    Should certainly, but as the NHS in NI doesn’t pay for abortions in NI (they are mostly illegal), so the NHS in NI refuses to pay for them in England.

  • Skibo

    Unfortunately NI has been shipping this problem to the UK for many years now. Quite content to say abortion allowed in the UK is illegal here but accept that the UK to handle any abortions for NI women.
    I am a pro-lifer but do not think I have the right to demand the same of my fellow citizens.

  • Newman

    You misunderstand then the central tenet of the argument. This is not simply about a restriction on autonomy but on the rights of an unborn child to life. Changing the nomenclature does not alter the reality. The fact is that the rate of abortion in Northern Ireland is a fraction of the equivalent rate in England and Wales even allowing for the 800 to 1000 who travel to obtain an abortion.The law in Northern Ireland has made a difference to thousands of lives.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    What about the mother’s right’s to direct her own life in the manner she sees fit? A woman is not a vehicle for the perpetuation of the species (or the perpetuation of a religion either) unless she chooses to be so. Anything else is either slavery or dictatorship. I’m sure you wouldn’t be happy to live under either of those regimes.

    Your attitude is one of the unfortunate consequences of having an authoritarian personality, which is not your fault in the first place, but is if you do not educate yourself and try to combat such dictatorial proclivities.

  • Newman

    As the poet John Donne said “No man (or woman)” is an island”. The choices we make have consequences. Your philosophy appears to be extreme libertarianism which elevates personal autonomy as the sole consideration. We are not dealing here with losing a tooth or donating a kidney, but in terminating the life of a living breathing human being.Your analysis seems to be a rant against nature itself. I think best to ignore the rest of the post.

  • Korhomme

    the life of a living breathing human being

    Breathing? Really?

  • Newman

    My mistake.sorry!

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    I suggest that perhaps you should not ignore the rest of my post – it might help you later.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Not your only one.

  • Croiteir

    Psychology Level One – Dictatorial Attitudes and how to close down a debate for liberals

  • billypilgrim1

    “What about the mother’s right’s to direct her own life in the manner she sees fit?”

    Is it really greater than the baby’s right to life? Is this right really such that it carries with it a concomitant right to kill another human being?

    “A woman is not a vehicle for the perpetuation of the species…”

    Clearly being a vehicle for the perpetuation of the species is in fact the defining biological characteristic of the female of the species.

    Obviously all of us are more than our biological characteristics (and of course the male of the species has defining biological characteristics too) but you are actually denying the existence of those characteristics in the first place, or at the very least denying that they matter in the slightest.

    You are setting your astonishing vanity against scores of millennia of human development. Good luck with that.

    “Anything else is either slavery or dictatorship. I’m sure you wouldn’t be happy to live under either of those regimes.”

    Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland. Its people do not live under conditions of either slavery or dictatorship. Consider your (adolescent and idiotic) argument falsified.

  • Croiteir

    Apart fro the issue of abortion I think that this may well come back to bite Nicola Sturgeon, basically she is undermining the wishes of Stormont.

    The question you need to ask is where does this type of intervention end?

  • billypilgrim1

    Indeed, Donaldson’s unionism is utterly hypocritical. If he’s really a good Christian who cares about the lives of the unborn, it’s his duty to support the reunification of Ireland – ie unify with a state that bans abortion and move away from one that is a world-leader in the practice. Otherwise, how to avoid the conclusion that he cares more about his knighthood than he does about the unborn?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    You said it – “Obviously all of us are more than our biological characteristics”.

    Following your line of argument we would still be living on the plains of Africa, hunting gazelle. [B]”eing a vehicle for the perpetuation of the species is in fact the defining biological characteristic of the female of the species.” You omitted to mention my inclusion of the words “unless she chooses to be so”

    Your ideas are well past their sell-by date – this is the 21st century. Women can choose for themselves if they wish to fulfil this sort of biological determinism. As for “slavery or dictatorship” – I suggest you consult one of the many women who have to trek off to the UK to end an unwanted pregnancy about how they feel about that. What you are advocating is a return to barbarism.

    I’m pretty disappointed – I thought from your other comments you were quite an enlightened sort of chap. But there you go – Ireland really is a minefield. Ouch! Maybe the north and the south have more in common than I realised – biological fascism.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Or just a word to the wise? 🙂

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    It should end with women being allowed to lead their own lives as they see fit without the State and male supremacy interfering where they have no right.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    You’re a ‘liberal’?

  • billypilgrim1

    Don’t presume to know my position on this very troubling issue, just because I present a rebuttal to your incredibly lazy, entitled arguments.

    As to what the Irish women taking the boat feel about it, I can well imagine; but if they were to say they were slaves, or living under a dictatorship, then they would be flatly wrong, no matter how strongly they felt about it. But I seriously doubt that many of them would say anything like the nonsense you are ventriloquising into their mouths.

    As to ‘advocating a return to barbarism’ – is this really your test as to whether a society is civilised or barbaric?

    Is it your contention that the Republic of Ireland is a barbaric society?

    If this is so, and carrying children to term = barbaric, but killing them = civilised, then let’s hear it for the Brezhnev-era USSR, which was by your definition the most civilised society in history. Let’s hear it too for the People’s Republic of China with its demographic disaster of a shortage of females, because of all those millions of babies aborted because they were girls. Say what you will about these societies, but you can’t knock their liberal laws on abortion. Go civilisation!

  • billypilgrim1

    “…biological fascism…”

    Only one of us is advocating something that literally involves the killing of millions.

  • billypilgrim1

    You don’t think the state has a right to intervene to protect human beings from being killed by violence?

  • Croiteir

    So if you agree with it that makes it okay?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yeah. And only one of us is advocating something where one small section of the population forces a different section to do something which they desperately do not want to do, and which will have deleterious and life changing consequences for them.

    What is your dictionary definition of that?

    What gives you the right to say how others will live their lives?

    Your attitude stinks of sexism, patriarchal domination and religious intolerance.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Your characterisation is deliberately provocative, and inaccurate.

    What “human beings”? A foetus is called a foetus because that is what it is. This issue has been ruled upon by numerous courts of law – until the age of 22 weeks in the UK for example, it is not ‘a human being’.

    Do you want to stop women menstruating, and men from masturbating, as well? On consideration of that, probably you do.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Makes what ok?

  • Croiteir

    The subject at hand

  • billypilgrim1

    “Your characterisation is deliberately provocative, and inaccurate. What human beings?”

    I take it you aren’t questioning the accuracy of the part about violence?

    As to ‘what human beings?’ – I’m referring to the ones in the womb that are being killed.

    A ‘foetus’ is a prenatal human being. That’s what that clinical, usefully-obscure Latin word means. A prenatal human being is still a human being.

    I’m aware that a number of countries have come up with a number of different numbers of weeks at which they reckon the child in the womb has become viable. But none of those rulings mean that what’s there before the cut-off point is not human.

    What on earth do you think it is, if it’s not human?

    There is also another, pretty widespread school of thought, which is that life begins at conception. Try as I might – and believe me, I very sincerely have tried – I cannot see the logic in any alternative interpretation of when life can be said to have begun.

    The stuff about menstruation and masturbation is silly.

  • billypilgrim1

    With some genuine but rare exceptions, having a baby is not “deleterious” to a person’s life. Inconvenient, maybe, but not damaging or harmful.

    Stop pretending that anything that impinges on your pathological solipsism is somehow a violation of your human rights.

    “What gives you the right to say how others will live their lives?”

    The right to intervene to protect human life from violence seems a more natural one than any supposed right to kill those who are inconvenient.

    “Your attitude stinks of sexism, patriarchal domination and religious intolerance.”

    Do you have an argument, or just a list of cliched insults?

    If you want to know the truth, I would very much like to be pro-choice. I really would. Practically everyone I know is. But I find it increasingly hard to overlook how weak and intellectually wanting the pro-choice arguments actually are. And they’re based on a morality that’s grounded entirely in selfishness. The utter laziness and entitlement of your arguments have done nothing to persuade me otherwise.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Yeah. And only one of us is advocating something where one small section of the population forces a different section to do something which they desperately do not want to do”

    Love the way you consider this to be so much worse than the killing of millions.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Obviously there is no arguing with religious mania. I shouldn’t have bothered.

  • billypilgrim1

    I’m not sure you actually did bother. You threw around a few petulant insults but offered precious little by way of actual argument.

    You assume that because I am unimpressed with your points, I must be religiously dogmatic. Again, you demonstrate the laziness I referred to earlier. In actual fact, I haven’t proffered a single argument grounded in any religious tenet. (Not that there’d be anything wrong with my doing so.)

    And the only moral tenet on which I have insisted is that the taking of innocent life for reasons of convenience is wrong. This really shouldn’t seem too exacting or dogmatic, but apparently it is.

    And now you’re running away, no doubt ‘offended’ that I have challenged you. This is the entitlement I’m talking about.

  • Newman

    Which court of law has ruled on when life begins? Vo v France in the ECHR accepted that there was no scientific or legal consensus on the point. Courts avoid the issue.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    You’ve got a cheek talking about ‘entitlement’ – you feel yourself entitled to direct how other people , who have a different opinion of what is ‘right’ and more important, right for them, will live their lives. It’s a good a definition of authoritarian privilege as I want to see.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa
  • billypilgrim1

    So you’ve identified one of the genuine but rare exceptions I referred to.


  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Yeah – ‘rare exceptions’ – so good of you to let yourself off so easily.