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Abortion: Northern Ireland

Question for Department of Health

UIN HL2631, tabled on 26 October 2017

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend, under the extension of the Northern Ireland abortion scheme which will include the provision of free travel for women on low incomes, to pay for minors to travel and have abortions in England; and whether minors resident in Northern Ireland who are eligible for free travel under the extension of the Northern Ireland abortion scheme will need to gain permission from their parents before travelling to get an abortion in England.

Answered on

7 November 2017

The arrangements to provide abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland include travel and, where appropriate, accommodation for all those who meet the eligibility criteria. Parents or guardians can accompany young women aged under 18 and receive help towards travel costs if they receive qualifying benefits or meet the low income criteria. A doctor or health professional is able to provide contraception, sexual and reproductive health advice and treatment, including abortion, without parental knowledge or consent, to a young person aged under 16 years, provided that the doctor or health professional is satisfied that the conditions set out in the Fraser Guidelines are met. Health professionals should make every effort to encourage young women aged under 16 to involve their parents. If they cannot be persuaded to do so then they should be assisted to find another adult (such as another family member or specialist youth worker) to provide support.

Lord Fraser was one of the Law Lords who ruled in Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority (1985) that under 16s can access sexual health care without parental consent, provided the following criteria are met:

- that the young person understands the advice and has sufficient maturity to understand what is involved;

- that the doctor could not persuade the young person to inform their parents, nor to allow the doctor to inform them;

- that the young person would be very likely to begin or continue having sexual intercourse with or without contraceptive treatment;

- that without contraceptive advice or treatment the young person’s physical or mental health would suffer; and

- that it would be in the young person’s best interest to give such advice or treatment without parental consent.