Scotland Could Offer Free Abortions To Northern Irish Women

Nicola Sturgeon will look at how to offer Northern Irish women free abortions on the Scottish NHS.

The First Minister confirmed Edinburgh's devolved government would explore the offer in a visit to Dublin on Tuesday. Northern Ireland currently bans abortions unless there is a danger to the mother's life.

Nicola Sturgeon made the proposal on a trip to Ireland.Reuters

The NHS across the UK has so far refused to pay for terminations for Northern Irish women which can cost between £400 and £2,000 in a private clinic.

But Christian charity CARE said the proposals set a "very disturbing constitutional precedent". 

Chief executive Nola Leach said: "Offering free abortions for women from Northern Ireland completely undermines Northern Ireland's current laws on abortion.

"If Nicola Sturgeon really does believe in devolution, she should respect the will of the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly rather than working to undermine it.

"Women and girls in a crisis pregnancy need support. Sturgeon's offer of a free abortion in another country is short-sighted and neglects to mention any offer of counselling or support for the woman."

Sturgeon said: "I was asked a question specifically in parliament about the scenario where a woman from Northern Ireland chooses to access an abortion in Scotland and whether they should be charged for that or not.

"Now I said that we would explore that, so we are looking in terms of the process and will discuss with the NHS what would happen now routinely, and whether there are options to change that, to make the process safer for the women concerned.

"My view is that if a woman is going to access an abortion then the important thing is that it is as safe as possible... I am not putting a timescale on it but I will report back to parliament in due course."