According to BBC NI, Stormont has today complied with UK law. Women will not have to travel by ferry to GB for the procedure after all.
Medical professionals in NI can now “terminate pregnancies lawfully”, the Department of Health has said. Last month, abortion laws changed to permit terminations up to 12 weeks, but this had not been put into practice.
Some of NI’s health trusts had been told by the department not to proceed with temporary plans. The department has now said it has received legal advice meaning abortions can be carried out at health and social care premises.
In a statement, it said it had written to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists about the situation, after correspondence from the body expressed concern that the implementation of abortion services was being held up due to the Covid-19 crisis.
BBC News NI Political Reporter Jayne McCormick writes
This is a hugely significant moment for abortion services in Northern Ireland. While the new laws took effect last week, they are now being implemented on the ground.
It will be welcome news for medical professionals who said they were ready to provide terminations, but for others this will be a step too far.
Some trusts – the Belfast, South Eastern and Northern – had agreed a temporary plan to provide services in NI so women could stay at home, but had been instructed not to proceed, pending the issue being discussed by the Northern Ireland Executive.
An advisory paper was brought by Health Minister Robin Swann to the executive’s meeting on Monday, detailing the current situation and future options.
However, abortion is a sensitive issue that divides the political parties, and it is understood the parties did not reach any consensus.
On Tuesday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said NI’s Attorney General John Larkin had also raised issues about the implementation of the framework that would need to be addressed by the executive.
On Thursday the Stormont Health Committee had agreed, following a vote, to write to the health minister, urging him to press ahead and put the laws into practice.
British Pregnancy Advice service tweets
Today, we launched our service to provide abortion medication by post to women in Northern Ireland. This will be free to any woman who needs our care. Please consider becoming a Friend of BPAS from just £2 a month to support our work: https://friendsofbpas.org/sign-up/ #NowForNI
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London