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Lewis urges Stormont to act on delayed abortion services before he orders it

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The Northern Ireland Secretary has urged Stormont ministers to take action on rolling out abortions services in the region before he steps in to order it.

Brandon Lewis expressed hope progress could be made on the long-delayed central commissioning of services without him having to use new powers to direct the devolved administration to act on the issue.

Mr Lewis laid regulations at Westminster on Tuesday that would give him the ability to compel the region’s health department to commission the services.

He will assume the power when the regulations come into force on March 31.

Parliament will convene in the coming weeks to consider the regulations, with an expectation they will be approved and maintained.

John Hume funeral / PA Archive

In a written ministerial statement to MPs, Mr Lewis said he would continue to press the powersharing administration on the issue in the interim.

“While Parliament considers the regulations, we will continue to engage with the Minister of Health (Robin Swann) and the Executive to try and find a way forward over the coming weeks before any direction is given,” he said.

“We have used every opportunity and avenue to encourage progress and offer our support over the past year so we are disappointed that we have reached this impasse.

“We take this step now, to further demonstrate our commitment to ensuring women and girls can safely access abortion services in Northern Ireland.”

The Government’s intervention on delayed abortion services came ahead of a legal challenge by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission over the ongoing failure to make terminations widely available in the region.

Abortion laws in the region were liberalised by MPs at Westminster in 2019 at a time when powersharing was collapsed.

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