Abortion Services: Western Trust

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 26th April 2021.

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Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green 2:30 pm, 26th April 2021

T1. Miss Woods asked the Minister of Health to clarify to whom the conscientious objection provisions in the Abortion (Northern Ireland) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 apply, given that he will be aware that early medical abortion (EMA) services in the Western Trust were suspended on Friday 23 April. (AQT 1221/17-22)

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

I think that they will apply to anyone who wishes to take up that option. My Department was informed on Friday of a temporary pause to the Western Trust's early medical abortion service, and my Department will continue to monitor ongoing efforts by the trust to restore delivery of those services with minimum disruption. At this stage, it is not known how long services will be paused in the Western Trust. It is my understanding that efforts are ongoing to put additional staff in place as soon as possible and to resume provision of an EMA service with the minimum of disruption.

Photo of Rachel Woods Rachel Woods Green

I thank the Minister for his answer. It is my understanding that there have been instances of some staff working across trusts frustrating service delivery by refusing to, say, perform administrative tasks. Will the Minister outline what instruction or guidance his Department has given to all the trusts in Northern Ireland on that matter?

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

The trusts deliver the service, and it is up to them to deliver the administration of that service. However, my Department has advised the trusts that abortion is now legal and that the regulations require such terminations to be carried out on health and social care premises by registered medical professionals. The EMA pathways were put in place by the trusts, starting from April 2020, in line with their statutory duties and functions to provide medical care and treatment in accordance with the needs of the patients and subject to the law.