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Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 Section 3(5)

Part of Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 16th October 2019.

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Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Scotland Office) (jointly with the Northern Ireland Office) 7:00 pm, 16th October 2019

Broadly, yes—I do accept that, but I also accept that the legislation allowed for this interim period so that the right guidance could be put into place to ensure that when services become available, they are operating under the right framework.

It is expected that access to abortion services will not be routinely available in Northern Ireland until the new legal framework is in place after March 2020. The guidance notes that, if healthcare professionals choose to offer an abortion service to women during the interim period within the bounds of the relevant law, they should do so in line with their professional competence and guidance from their professional body. The guidance also notes the state of play relating to conscientious objection and what to do in cases in which patients have purchased abortion pills online. We are continuing to work at pace to be ready to continue to take forward all the necessary work to be able to implement new regulations by 31 March 2020 if there is no restored Executive by the deadline. Make no mistake: we will change the law on these issues if there is no Executive within the deadline.

My Department is therefore preparing to launch a consultation on changes to the law, on access to abortion services, and on the scheme for a victims payment once the 21 October deadline passes.