Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (417)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

417. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the status of plans to provide free access to termination of pregnancy services for women from Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5491/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

As the Deputy knows, I am very much aware of the concerns that women in Northern Ireland have in relation to access to termination of pregnancy, which are similar to those which women in the Republic faced prior to the recent change in the law here. I believe it is welcome that women who live in Northern Ireland can now access termination services in this jurisdiction.

However, under the Health Act 1970, eligibility for public health services is based on a person being ordinarily resident in the State. This is the bedrock upon which our eligibility system for health services, and indeed many other public services, is founded. The necessary provisions were made in the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 to enable universal access for women living in the State to the services in question without charge. Women who live in Northern Ireland can access termination services in this jurisdiction but would, in effect, be doing so as private patients and would be subject to charges in this regard.

While I share the Deputy's wish to facilitate access without charge to termination-of-pregnancy services to women from Northern Ireland, such a proposal raises a number of legal and policy issues. I have had some initial discussion with the Attorney General about the matter. He has indicated that as a proposition along these lines appears not to have been considered before, it would require detailed examination. I therefore intend to undertake such an examination of the issues, in conjunction with the Attorney General and other Government colleagues as necessary.

I was glad to be able to meet groups working on this issue with the Deputy and look forward to doing so again.