The Government has used new powers to direct the Stormont Executive to commission abortion services in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis confirmed the widely-anticipated move in a written ministerial statement to Parliament.
Abortion laws in Northern Ireland were liberalised in 2019 following legislation passed by Westminster at a time when devolution in the region had collapsed.
However, while individual health trusts are currently offering services on an ad hoc basis, the Department of Health has yet to centrally commission the services due to an ongoing impasse within the Executive.
In March, the Government intervened to hand Mr Lewis new powers to direct the region’s Department of Health to commission the services.
On Thursday, he formally took that step, directing the Department of Health and the First and deputy First Ministers to commission the services no later than March 31, 2020.
“This ongoing stalemate leaves me no choice but to issue a direction,” said Mr Lewis.
“I have a legal and moral obligation to ensure the women and girls in Northern Ireland are afforded their rights and can access the healthcare as set out in the 2020 Regulations.”
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