The Northern Ireland Executive has approved guidance on Termination of Pregnancy in Northern Ireland for Health and Social Care professionals.
The Guidance will now be circulated to staff, and is intended to provide clarity to them on the law framing termination of pregnancy in Northern Ireland and guide them in its application in clinical practice. It also advises on some of the factors that need to be taken into account during clinical assessment and management of women for whom termination of pregnancy may be a consideration.
Speaking today, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “My responsibility in this area relates to ensuring that women receive the health and social care services to which they are legally entitled and that those who provide them do so in accordance with the law. Guidance from my Department must reflect the current law in Northern Ireland. It cannot change the law. Producing robust Guidance has proved to be a complex and time-consuming process.
“This Guidance takes account of the issues raised in my Department’s public consultation in 2013 on this subject and also reflects the considered opinions of health professionals working in this area. The new Guidance is very much the product of the views of those working in this difficult area.
“I know that this is an area of public policy where people hold differing views. My focus is on ensuring that health professionals who have to deal with extremely difficult cases have the clarity around the law that they have been asking me for.”
The Minister has also indicated progress on the creation of a working group to examine the issue of fatal foetal abnormality.
Minister Hamilton said: “I have been giving careful consideration to the proposal to create a working group to examine the issue of fatal foetal abnormality. The Executive has discussed this in recent weeks and I have also met with the Justice Minister about it. I am pleased that he and I have agreed to proceed with creating an inter-departmental working group composed of officials from both of our Departments. Whilst work is ongoing to finalise terms of reference for the working group, we both agree that it should engage with healthcare professionals and those people directly affected by fatal foetal abnormality, and take account of recent consultation on the question of legislative change, as it goes about its important work.”