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.
Minister for Women & Equalities Justine Greening confirmed the move in a letter to MPs.
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:
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.
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