NHS Scotland - fund abortions for Northern Irish women travelling for treatment
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Today the UK Supreme Court ruled, in a 3-2 split decision, that the NHS does not have to fund abortions for Northern Irish women travelling to the mainland for treatment. This is a devastating decision which will mean hundreds of Northern Irish women 'taking the boat' must raise up to £2,000 just to access safe, legal abortion. Many of these women face significant financial barriers to accessing the abortion treatment that women in England, Wales and Scotland receive for free and take for granted.
Nicola Sturgeon can change this situation, despite the Supreme Court decision. NHS Scotland has the ability to fund NHS abortion treatment for Northern Irish women if it chooses to do so. I am calling on Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, and Aileen Campbell MSP as Minister for Public Health and Sport to make this happen.
The cost of giving Northern Irish women free access to abortion in Scotland will not be substantial - we estimate it will cost under £1 million per year to fund this service, based on approx. 750 women travelling for treatment annually. This is a tiny figure compared to the overall NHS Scotland budget. Northern Irish women fund the NHS via their taxes just like the rest of us - it is entirely reasonable for us to fund their essential healthcare in return.
In November 2016, Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that she was looking into the practicalities of funding abortion for Northern Irish women. Given today's Supreme Court decision, we urge her to accelerate this process and provide Northern Irish women with this essential funding without delay.
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