UK Government orders commissioning of Northern Ireland abortion services

23 July, 2021

The UK Government has used its powers to order the Northern Ireland Executive to commission abortion services. It made the move after some parties’ opposition in Stormont led to continued delay to the rollout of abortion services in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Humanists welcomed the decision as vital progress for women’s rights.

Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland last year. The new legislation should have also led to the rollout of services. But disagreements between the five parties that make up the Executive meant that services were not centrally commissioned by the Department of Health. Some individual health trusts still provided services. But without any dedicated funding for this, the result has been that many women in Northern Ireland have been left without the services to which they are legally entitled.

In March, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis decided that the UK Government may have to intervene to force the introduction of services. He laid new regulations which gave him the power to order the Northern Ireland Department of Health to commission abortion services. Following further failure to commission services by the Executive, Mr Lewis has now decided to use those powers. In a statement to Parliament, he announced that ‘I have chosen to impose a deadline for the availability of commissioned services of 31 March 2022 to account for the Department of Health’s estimate that it would take 8-12 months to make fully commissioned… services available.’

Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator commented:

‘We welcome the action taken by Brandon Lewis. It’s a shame our parties couldn’t commission these services themselves. Abortion provision is something that the people of Northern Ireland have been denied for so long.

‘We hope we will now see the Department of Health and Executive carry out their duties to rectify this.’


For further comment or information, please contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at or phone 02890 029946.

Read Brandon Lewis’s written statement to the UK Parliament.

Read our last news item on Brandon Lewis and abortion.

Read our most recent article on our call to home access to abortion medication.

Read our article on the legal failure to provide abortion services in Northern Ireland .

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