Women from the North will be able to access abortion services in Ireland, says health minister
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Women from the North will be able to access abortion services in Ireland, says health minister

WOMEN from Northern Ireland will be allowed to access abortion services south of the border once it is legalised, Health Minister Simon Harris has said.

Speaking at the Féile an Phobail festival in Belfast this evening, Mr Harris said that while he respects the current abortion laws in Northern Ireland, he hopes the situation is addressed soon.

Despite being legal in Britain, abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland except where pregnancy poses a direct threat to the mother’s life, or there is a serious risk to the mother’s mental or physical health.

In May, Ireland voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to make abortion legal up to 12 weeks, with the change in law expected to be enacted by the end of the year.

According to the Irish Times, Mr Harris told the audience in Belfast: “Whilst I respect the issue of abortion laws in Northern Ireland is a matter for public representatives in Northern Ireland, I really hope this is addressed in the near future.

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“In the meantime, I intend to ensure women from Northern Ireland can access such services in the Republic, just like they can access other health services here.”

Support for a reform of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws has grown since the Eighth Amendment referendum.

Abortion reform would normally be a matter for the North’s devolved government, however the power-sharing executive collapsed over 18 months ago.

Last month, more than 170 politicians from Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland signed a letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Irish counterpart Leo Vardakar calling on Westminster to repeal the North's abortion laws.