T3. Ms Bailey asked the Minister of Health, given that she is sure that the speedy and personal apology that he got after the ridiculous comments that were made about him last week was welcome, whether, following Mr Carroll’s question, he will commit to offering an apology to the 371 women who have been forced to travel to England for abortion services during the pandemic. (AQT 1423/17-22)
I do not want to conflate the two issues or bring them together. I received an apology of sorts on Saturday afternoon, so it was far from speedy in comparison with other public statements that were made.
On the delivery of abortion services, as I said in answer to an earlier question, I am seeking consensus, as required under the ministerial code. While my Department resumes the necessary planning works for commissioned abortion services under the 2020 regulations, I have asked Executive colleagues for a decision on that. I propose that because, as was the case when I brought forward similar proposals in April or May last year, I want to reduce the health risk for any woman or girl in Northern Ireland who needs to travel to England to access services or, worse, needs to turn to unsafe and unregulated services while work on a commissioned service is progressed by my Department.
Minister, this morning, I received a response to a question for written answer about the regulation of Stanton Healthcare in Belfast. The response stated that it is not regulated. On Stanton's website, it says that its services include counselling, pregnancy testing, STI testing, post-abortion care, ultrasound referrals and many other things. Do you think that it is dangerous if it is not regulated and we do not know what is being offered? Why is it not regulated?
Again, I thank the Member for her question. If I recall it correctly, the response to the question for written answer that she received this morning and to which she refers sets out the assessment of Stanton Healthcare by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA). I have to take my guidance from the RQIA, which is our regulatory and quality inspectorate. If it says that that is not an establishment that it is within its scope to inspect, I have to take it at its word. I will ask it again, on the back of the Member's question, to reassess that. That was the initial response that I was provided with for the Member's question for written answer.