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Abortion provider in NI to close

Abortion provider, Informing Choice NI,  which was the central access point for early medical abortions in Northern Ireland, has folded due to a lack of funding. The development was welcomed by pro-life activists.

Informing Choices NI (ICNI) released a statement this morning (October 1st) saying that it was with “deep reluctance” that it is withdrawing the service it has run for the last 18 months following the legalisation of abortion in the North. The service will be withdrawn from 5pm today.

Wide-ranging access to abortion was legalised in 2019 following legislation imposed by Westminster at a time when devotion had collapsed in the North.

It is believed that an alternative service will now be provided by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Britain’s largest abortion provider, from Monday.

Stormont’s Department of Health has yet to centrally commission full abortion services, believed to be due to an impasse within the devolved administration.

The pro-life DUP has blocked consideration of central commissioning at the Stormont Execuive, which led to the British government introducing new powers to allow Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to intervene on the devolved issue to formally direct Stormont to roll out aborion access.

Lewis used the new powers to direct ministers in Belfast to take the steps needed to implement abortion services across the north, setting hem a deadline of the end of March 2022 to do so.

ICNI previously said it would not be able to continue providing early medical abortions unless interim funding was provided.

In June, the abortion charity released a report which focused on the central access point for early medical abortions and warned, “If funding is not made available for ICNI to continue providing the central access point service, it will cease from 1 October 2021. The withdrawal of the ICNI service could lead to the suspension of all EMA services in NI.”

Today, ICNI said in a statement posted to social media: “The service has operated outside of a commissioned framework for 18 months. As a small charity with limited resources this placed considerable pressures on the organisation,” they said.

“ICNI previously warned the service could not continue unless interim funding was secured whilst the commissioning of services was under way.

“Regretfully additional funding has not been provided by the Department of Health. Therefore it is with deep reluctance that we have had no option but to take this action.

Although the news was lamented by pro-abortion organisations and politicians including Amnesty UK and People Before Profit, many pro-life supporters rejoiced at the news.

Taking to social media, some described the closure as “brilliant” and “a good day for the North of Ireland”.

One person wrote, “Goodbye and good riddance to that so-called small charity, not a virtue to murder a growing baby in the womb”

Another said, “Goodbye. Close the door tight behind you….so we can lock it and throw away the key.”

Others on social media claimed that there was “still no appetite” for abortion in the Northern Ireland, and highlighted that 79% of those in who responded to a 2019 public consultation on abortion law changes in the north said they opposed any introduction of abortion, as reported here by Gript.

The news of the closure comes after pro-life campaigners pledged to “work harder than ever to save lives” when the access point was announced last year.

Since the imposition of abortion on the provice, vocal pro-life campaigners have promised to continue to lead the fight against abortion across the north.

In an April 2020 press release, Precious Life pledged to “work harder than ever to save lives” in response to the news that ICNI was a central access point to abortion pills in the north.

Today, Precious Life welcomed the withdrawal of the abortion provider and promoted the use of pro-life pregnancy centres like Stanton Healthcare NI.

“Today is a good day for the unborn children of Northern Ireland. After 18 months, abortion providers ‘Informing Choices’ (previously FPA) have withdrawn their ‘services’”, the organisation said today.

Bernadette Smyth, Director of Precious Life said: “Women in Northern Ireland do not need Informing Choices; women facing unexpected pregnancy need real support, and that is exactly what our affiliates at Stanton Healthcare NI are providing.

“Today, we ask everyone to get behind Stanton Healthcare, to support their life saving ministry as they continue to walk beside women, families and their babies while offering compassionate solutions and alternatives to abortion.”

“While abortion providers in Northern Ireland charge between £600-1,500 for an abortion, Stanton Healthcare Belfast offer women 18 months of full support services completely FREE of cost.”

In response to the push for abortion services, Precious Life have continually called on Stormont to put in place or fund alternative support services for women experiencing unintended pregnancies.

“We need support services that offer practical, caring solutions which uphold the dignity of both mother and child,” the group have said.

Although no government funding has been allocated for pro-life organisations, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said today it is considering a funding request for ICNI following the news of the closure of its early abortion service today.

“A funding request was received in August and officials have been considering this, in line with departmental approval processes, with the intention of bringing a paper to the Executive on funding,” they said.

“In the interim, Informing Choices NI signalled their intention to withdraw the current service from 1st October 2021 due to funding issues.

“The department has now been informed by Trusts that an alternative interim advice and referral service has been established, at no additional cost, through the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). This interim service from BPAS will ensure continuity of advice and referral services, pending wider decisions on the commissioning of abortion services in NI.

“In line with the secretary of state’s direction, the department is preparing proposals for Executive consideration on the commissioning of abortion services in Northern Ireland. These proposals will be finalised as soon as possible, with submission to the Executive expected by late 2021/early 2022.”

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