Women in Northern Ireland should be able to take abortion pills at home during the coronavirus outbreak, campaigners have told the UK Government. 

Amnesty International said travelling to England was an unsafe option.

Changes ordered in Westminster while the Stormont assembly was not sitting allow unrestricted abortions in early pregnancy, but local services have not been commissioned. Stormont’s ministerial Executive is still considering matters raised by chief legal adviser the attorney general John Larkin QC, according to first minister Arlene Foster.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: ‘The Northern Ireland Executive has failed women and girls facing crisis pregnancy during the current pandemic by not giving them the option to safely self-manage abortions at home.

‘This is hugely disappointing and insulting.’

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She continued: ‘All other regions in the UK now have this provision in place because it’s the safe and right thing to do during the current health emergency.

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‘The Government’s own advice is to stay at home. It’s simply not safe or viable to travel.’

Powersharing partners the DUP and Sinn Fein disagree over abortion and when devolution was previously in place were unable to agree a solution.

The DUP’s Mrs Foster, a critic of abortion, told a Stormont committee of Assembly members there was little prospect of a meeting of minds any time soon.

Ms Teggart said: ‘We cannot be left behind without abortion services. This is unfair, dangerous and is putting women and girls at risk.

‘We urgently need the Northern Ireland Office to stand by people here and to once again do what our devolved Government has failed to do.’

With the Covid-19 pandemic making travelling for an abortion unsafe, impractical and against government advice, measures to allow women and girls to take abortion pills at home are already in place in the rest of the UK to help them safely self-manage abortions, Amnesty said.

Pregnant women are among those most at risk from the disease. 

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Despite new regulations coming into force in Northern Ireland on March 31, services have not yet been commissioned.

Amnesty has launched an urgent appeal to Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis to amend the new abortion regulations brought in by his Government to include provision for telemedicine service.

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