Northern Irish women will be able to access full, free abortion services in England by the end of the year, Justine Greening has announced.
The women and equalities secretary confirmed in a written statement on Monday that the Department of Health would give funding direct to providers of the procedure, making the process as straightforward as possible.
The government agreed to cover the cost of abortions for women from Northern Ireland – where termination rights are severely restricted – earlier this year, after a campaign led by Labour MP Stella Creasy.
In her statement, Greening said the three main providers of abortion in England had already stopped charging women travelling over for the procedure and that they would be reimbursed for their costs incurred so far.
She added: “We intend that women from Northern Ireland will access the service through existing providers of abortions in England, in the same way that women in England do.
“We have invited providers of abortions in England to apply for funding to extend their service provision to women from Northern Ireland. The funding will be accessed via a grant scheme that will be administered by the Department of Health.
“The cost of this service will be met by the Government Equalities Office with additional funding provided by HM Treasury.”
Greening said a central booking service would also be set up and all Northern Irish women accessing abortion would also receive STI testing, contraception offers and support with travel costs in cases of financial hardship.
But she the government had not changed its position on granting access to abortion within Northern Ireland itself, “which is a matter for the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly”.
She added: “That remains the case. Our proposals do not include the provision of any services in Northern Ireland.”
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 MPs are propping up Theresa May’s minority government, supports restrictions on abortion rights.
Walthamstow MP Creasy welcomed the announcement, but said she would not end her campaign until women in Northern Ireland could access services close to their own homes.
In a statement on her Instagram account, she wrote: “It has been a shame on our country for too long that women in Northern Ireland were denied their basic human right to control what happens to their own bodies – today we took a step forward in addressing that injustice, with a scheme that will give them support to come to England for healthcare assistance, and I want to thank all those involved in making that happen for their work bringing this proposal to reality.
“But today we also pledge to keep standing with them until they have equal access to abortion services in Northern Ireland itself – our sisters need to have their human rights to be upheld and we won’t give up until they have.”