Tag Archives: women

The real reason women freeze their eggs | Eva Wiseman

There’s a story that we’ve been told about why women freeze their eggs, which begins with ambition for a career and ends with them attempting to have it all, and it has always seemed a bit suss to me. I’ve spoken to a lot of women considering babies, both when researching egg freezing, and in my real life as a woman, considering babies, and never have career ambitions been their reason for postponing a family.

Which is not to say it doesn’t happen. I have a glossy image in my head of a professional woman in a nice silk shirt striding into a fertility clinic with a pile of binders and a four-year plan. But largely, no. New research confirms that women are not, as a rule, freezing their eggs for career reasons, but instead because they don’t have a partner. Women see egg freezing as “a technological concession to the man deficit”, using it to “buy time” while they look for a suitable father. And the problem with this problem, is that it’s much harder to talk about.


It’s not the man’s fault. Everybody is reading from the same rule book, where men propose and women play games

Because where does it start? Here you have the women in their 30s, beautiful, confident, independent and hilarious, spending their flat deposit on a single hope, because there is nobody there at night to have a grown-up conversation with about fertility. And here you have the men who learned at school to lose interest in a girl if she texts back too quickly. The thread between the two seems baked in amber, the power imbalance in heterosexual relationships almost integral now to the way we date.

The women I met who have had their eggs frozen spoke noisily and despairingly about the process, becoming very quiet when discussing either a noncommittal boyfriend or their search for a partner. And it’s not just the egg freezers. Come 35, it’s common for women to knock a year or two off their age on dating apps, having seen interest plummet as men assume they’ll be wanting kids within the year. They feel they have to step carefully, not appear “desperate to settle down”. But it comes naturally to many, because this is a game we’ve been learning since our first French kiss, the importance of letting him feel he’s in control.

You see it played out everywhere, from Jane Austen to Love Island, where women must withhold something, whether sex or honesty, in order to drive the relationship forward. It goes unsaid, often, the way women must make sure the guy doesn’t feel intimidated by her success, say, or her stability. The way they must “tone it down”, giggle rather than laugh, laugh rather than joke. Of course, all women aren’t after marriage and kids, but surely most want intimacy and honesty, whether that’s as basic as simply replying to a WhatsApp message, or feeling able to discuss whether they want a family without her boyfriend feeling trapped.

It’s not the man’s fault – we’re all complicit, everybody is reading from the same rule book, where men propose and women play games, but before that everyone’s casual, easy, looking for something, someone, sometime, but probably not you, not now, anyway. And, twist! The people profiting from this ancient can-can are fertility clinics, where women are turning themselves into patients on credit and a prayer. If they just wanted a baby, they could buy donor sperm, but these are women who want to wait for a partner, someone who will go all in and plan for a future.

While work undoubtedly impacts women’s family lives, with its structures seemingly imposed by a minibreaking playboy, the issue that drives the success of the egg freezing industry has never been employer’s attitudes to motherhood, but instead, men’s.

Even if it’s something that only strikes us as it becomes a reality, women know there is a time limit on our fertility. But it’s as if men are encouraged to ignore this icky truth, to look away as if from something obscene. So it seems inevitable, for relationships built among the smoke and mirrors of our flawed dating system, where caution must be exercised at every step to avoid saying something you really mean, that men and women will get to mid-life and be unable to commit. And then that it will be the women of my age left, Googling clinics, looking for a way to freeze time.

Email Eva at e.wiseman@observer.co.uk or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

Dementia and Alzheimer’s main cause of death for women, says Public Health England

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the biggest cause of death among women, according to a government report on the state of the nation’s health.

Public Health England (PHE)’s report, which uses population health data to produce a wide-ranging national report for the first time, suggests that while life expectancy has been steadily increasing – now 79.5 years for men and 83.1 years for women – more of those extra years are now spent in poor health.

Women can expect to live nearly a quarter of their lives in ill-health and men a fifth. The causes of death have shifted since the turn of the century, the analysis found, with the rise in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s the most significant features – alongside declines in other diseases.

Cause of death – women

“Since 2001, death rates from heart disease and stroke have halved for both males and females,” the report said. “Over the same time deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s have increased by 60% in males and have doubled in females.”

In 2015, heart disease was the most common cause of death among men, but Alzheimer’s and dementia are now the most likely among women. These diseases are better diagnosed, while the prevention and treatment of heart disease have improved.

The report prompted warnings that investment in dementia research must not slow. Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “To achieve the same successes as we have with other health conditions like heart disease and cancer, we need dementia research to remain a national priority. We have been able to make promising steps forward, thanks to a renewed focus, but we are not there yet.”

Cause of death – men

The PHE report also sheds light on the ailments that afflict people in earlier years. Lower back and neck pain are the biggest cause of ill-health in England, while obesity is the biggest risk factor for becoming unwell.

Where you live and how you live make a big difference to the likely length of your life and chances of good or poor health. Men and women in the most deprived areas can expect to spend 20 years fewer in good health compared with those living in the least deprived areas.

The PHE director of health improvement, John Newton, said: “For both men and women, almost half the population live in areas where healthy life expectancy is slightly less than the current state pension [age]. It is a slightly larger proportion of men than women … [but] a significant proportion of our population cannot expect to live in their pension age in good health.”

Diabetes, most of which is type 2 and linked to being overweight, has for the first time become one of the top 10 causes of ill-health and disability. The bill has been predicted to potentially cripple the NHS, which spends £14bn a year on testing and treatment.

Leading cause of morbidity

But lower back pain and neck pain are ranked ahead of diabetes. Part of that is down to the ageing population, but excess weight and lack of activity are also factors.

Among men, skin disorders, such as acne and psoriasis, are the second most common cause of ill-health, although they are three times less common than lower back and neck pain. Third among men and second among women is depression.

Lifestyle, poverty and education all make a difference to health. Among the medical risks are being overweight or obese and having high cholesterol. High BMI (body mass index, a measurement of obesity) can lead to heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, back pain, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and some cancers.

“Behavioural risks include smoking, alcohol and unsafe sex, while environmental and occupational risks include air pollution, unclean water and other risks due to the working or living environment,” said the report.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s main cause of death for women, says Public Health England

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the biggest cause of death among women, according to a government report on the state of the nation’s health.

Public Health England (PHE)’s report, which uses population health data to produce a wide-ranging national report for the first time, suggests that while life expectancy has been steadily increasing – now 79.5 years for men and 83.1 years for women – more of those extra years are now spent in poor health.

Women can expect to live nearly a quarter of their lives in ill-health and men a fifth. The causes of death have shifted since the turn of the century, the analysis found, with the rise in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s the most significant features – alongside declines in other diseases.

Cause of death – women

“Since 2001, death rates from heart disease and stroke have halved for both males and females,” the report said. “Over the same time deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s have increased by 60% in males and have doubled in females.”

In 2015, heart disease was the most common cause of death among men, but Alzheimer’s and dementia are now the most likely among women. These diseases are better diagnosed, while the prevention and treatment of heart disease have improved.

The report prompted warnings that investment in dementia research must not slow. Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “To achieve the same successes as we have with other health conditions like heart disease and cancer, we need dementia research to remain a national priority. We have been able to make promising steps forward, thanks to a renewed focus, but we are not there yet.”

Cause of death – men

The PHE report also sheds light on the ailments that afflict people in earlier years. Lower back and neck pain are the biggest cause of ill-health in England, while obesity is the biggest risk factor for becoming unwell.

Where you live and how you live make a big difference to the likely length of your life and chances of good or poor health. Men and women in the most deprived areas can expect to spend 20 years fewer in good health compared with those living in the least deprived areas.

The PHE director of health improvement, John Newton, said: “For both men and women, almost half the population live in areas where healthy life expectancy is slightly less than the current state pension [age]. It is a slightly larger proportion of women than men … [but] a significant proportion of our population cannot expect to live in their pension age in good health.”

Diabetes, most of which is type 2 and linked to being overweight, has for the first time become one of the top 10 causes of ill-health and disability. The bill has been predicted to potentially cripple the NHS, which spends £14bn a year on testing and treatment.

Leading cause of morbidity

But lower back pain and neck pain are ranked ahead of diabetes. Part of that is down to the ageing population, but excess weight and lack of activity are also factors.

Among men, skin disorders, such as acne and psoriasis, are the second most common cause of ill-health, although they are three times less common than lower back and neck pain. Third among men and second among women is depression.

Lifestyle, poverty and education all make a difference to health. Among the medical risks are being overweight or obese and having high cholesterol. High BMI (body mass index, a measurement of obesity) can lead to heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, back pain, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and some cancers.

“Behavioural risks include smoking, alcohol and unsafe sex, while environmental and occupational risks include air pollution, unclean water and other risks due to the working or living environment,” said the report.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s main cause of death for UK women

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are the biggest cause of death among women, according to a government report on the state of the nation’s health.

Public Health England (PHE)’s report, which uses population health data to produce a wide-ranging national report for the first time, suggests that while life expectancy has been steadily increasing – now 79.5 years for men and 83.1 years for women – more of those extra years are now spent in poor health.

Women can expect to live nearly a quarter of their lives in ill-health and men a fifth. The causes of death have shifted since the turn of the century, the analysis found, with the rise in deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s the most significant features – alongside declines in other diseases.

Cause of death – women

“Since 2001, death rates from heart disease and stroke have halved for both males and females,” the report said. “Over the same time deaths from dementia and Alzheimer’s have increased by 60% in males and have doubled in females.”

In 2015, heart disease was the most common cause of death among men, but Alzheimer’s and dementia are now the most likely among women. These diseases are better diagnosed, while the prevention and treatment of heart disease have improved.

The report prompted warnings that investment in dementia research must not slow. Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “To achieve the same successes as we have with other health conditions like heart disease and cancer, we need dementia research to remain a national priority. We have been able to make promising steps forward, thanks to a renewed focus, but we are not there yet.”

Cause of death – men

The PHE report also sheds light on the ailments that afflict people in earlier years. Lower back and neck pain are the biggest cause of ill-health in England, while obesity is the biggest risk factor for becoming unwell.

Where you live and how you live make a big difference to the likely length of your life and chances of good or poor health. Men and women in the most deprived areas can expect to spend 20 years fewer in good health compared with those living in the least deprived areas.

The PHE director of health improvement, John Newton, said: “For both men and women, almost half the population live in areas where healthy life expectancy is slightly less than the current state pension [age]. It is a slightly larger proportion of women than men … [but] a significant proportion of our population cannot expect to live in their pension age in good health.”

Diabetes, most of which is type 2 and linked to being overweight, has for the first time become one of the top 10 causes of ill-health and disability. The bill has been predicted to potentially cripple the NHS, which spends £14bn a year on testing and treatment.

Leading cause of morbidity

But lower back pain and neck pain are ranked ahead of diabetes. Part of that is down to the ageing population, but excess weight and lack of activity are also factors.

Among men, skin disorders, such as acne and psoriasis, are the second most common cause of ill-health, although they are three times less common than lower back and neck pain. Third among men and second among women is depression.

Lifestyle, poverty and education all make a difference to health. Among the medical risks are being overweight or obese and having high cholesterol. High BMI (body mass index, a measurement of obesity) can lead to heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, back pain, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and some cancers.

“Behavioural risks include smoking, alcohol and unsafe sex, while environmental and occupational risks include air pollution, unclean water and other risks due to the working or living environment,” said the report.

Rudd enters row on NHS charging women from Northern Ireland for abortions

Women from Northern Ireland must have access to terminations in England, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, has said as pressure mounted from Tory backbenchers for the government to reconsider its policy of charging the women for NHS abortions.

About a dozen Conservative MPs are understood to have expressed concerns about the situation in light of their party’s confidence and supply arrangement with the anti-abortion DUP.

Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and UK government policy states women travelling to England for terminations must pay for the NHS procedures despite being UK taxpayers, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month.

In the House of Commons, MPs raised concerns with the first secretary of state, Damian Green, that the government may have a tacit understanding with the DUP not to change the law in England.

But the Guardian understands DUP MPs are unhappy at this suggestion and have not appreciated being subtly painted as an obstacle to the policy change.

In a pointed intervention on Wednesday during a speech by the Labour MP Stella Creasy in the Queen’s speech debate, DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr said: “I do respect her genuine interest in this subject, I think it is important the house recognises this is not a matter for Belfast, this is a matter for NHS England.”

Rudd’s response, meanwhile, was prompted by a question during the debate from Tory MP Anna Soubry, who said there was “much concern on both sides of the house about the situation pertaining to women who live in Northern Ireland who seek terminations.”

Soubry asked the home secretary to give her assurance that access to termination would not be restricted while the situation was “resolved”, though there is no indication the Department of Health is preparing to change the policy.

Rudd said Soubry was “absolutely right … We are absolutely committed to healthcare for women, and that includes access to terminations.”

The controversy has unfolded before an important judgment on Northern Ireland’s abortion law. A court in Belfast is expected to rule on Thursday whether the region’s laws are in breach of the human rights of women and girls.

The court will determine whether two high court rulings in 2015 and 2016 that the existing abortion regime in Northern Ireland breached a woman’s right to a private life under European law can be upheld.

These were in cases involving women and girls who could not obtain abortions in local hospitals in cases of fatal foetal abnormality or became pregnant as a result of sexual crimes.

More than 50 MPs from all the major parties have signed an amendment to the Queen’s speech coordinated by Creasy, which the Speaker is expected to consider for a vote on Thursday, though there is no guarantee it will be chosen.

Three Tory MPs have also signed a letter to the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to end the charges. They are former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, Dan Poulter and Sir Peter Bottomley, who also signed Creasy’s amendment. Hunt has historically favoured tighter restrictions on abortions, suggesting the legal time limit be halved from 24 to 12 weeks.

The letter, coordinated by sexual health charity FPA, says: “As MPs, peers and members of the legislative assembly in Northern Ireland, we are dedicated to campaigning for a change to this unfair an discriminatory law.

“However, while our advocacy in this area continues, we would like to highlight the court’s ruling which states that, as secretary of state, you hold the legal authority to change your policy on funding abortion services in England for women normally resident in Northern Ireland. We urge you to use this authority and reduce the significant financial burden women travelling from Northern Ireland face.”

The letter to Hunt is also signed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, as well as the Fawcett Society and Amnesty International.

At least three other Tory MPs are known to have made private representations to Hunt or Conservative whips on the issue. One Conservative MP, who has not publicly voiced their concerns, told the Guardian: “Many of us simply did not know about this before, it didn’t occur to me. Taking this to court will be more expensive than NHS England paying for it.

“I know at least half a dozen colleagues who are concerned. None of us are going to vote for amendments to the Queen’s speech for very obvious reasons, but quite a lot are saying to the whips, this is weird, it’s not something we should get into a fight over.”

Creasy said the government needed to be open about what the obstacle was to the change.

“With voices on all sides backing the rights of Northern Irish women to be able to have an abortion in England on the NHS, the government now needs to come clean on just who is stopping them from ensuring these women can use these vital healthcare services in England and Wales and whether the question of abortion access has been discussed as part of their agreement with the DUP,” she said.

Men still die before women. Is toxic masculinity to blame? | Haider Javed Warraich

For much of recent history, men have tended to die earlier than women, though this was not always the case: for many centuries, the perils of childbirth effectively nullified any advantage women had over men. But modern medical care has dramatically reduced maternal death, and women in most countries now have a consistent advantage in life expectancy compared with men.

According to the most recent US data, the average American man dies five years before the average American women, and even wider gaps are seen among different racial and ethnic minorities: for example, Asian American women live 16.5 years longer than African American men on average.

While disparities in life expectancy between men and women have typically been greeted with a collective shrug, these questions are taking on greater urgency as new research reveals ominous trends for men’s health. Researchers from Stanford demonstrate that in societies where maternal mortality from childbirth has improved and birth control reduces family size, women consistently outlive men.

In addition, the gap in life expectancy continues to widen with increasing income inequality. Although the gap in life expectancy had started to narrow in the 1970s, the overall death rate is again climbing, particularly for White American men, making it essential to understand why the state of men’s health is going from bad to worse.

Many people assume that shorter male lifespans are driven, directly or indirectly, by genetics and other biological factors. Yet a closer look at science, medicine, and culture suggests that the engine for this disparity might be the long-held ideal of masculinity itself. It is becoming increasingly clear that a “man’s man” might be the most dangerous thing a man can be.

Fundamental biology may indeed play a role in disparities in life expectancy, and many theories have explored this possibility. The higher rate of male births has been suggested as one reason for differences in survival, as has the need for better female health to ensure successful child-rearing.

The additional X-chromosome carried by women carry might provide “backup” in the event of some genetic abnormalities. Higher levels of estrogen in women protect the heart from disease, and higher heart rates in women could simulate the beneficial effects of exercise.

On the other hand, increased risk-taking is associated with higher levels of testosterone in men. Males, too, show greater susceptibility for infections. These are just some of the hypotheses that have been advanced to explain differences in lifespan.

However, wide variation in life expectancy suggests that it is the behaviors and attitudes associated with gender, rather than the biological differences associated with sex, which are responsible for men dying sooner than women. For instance: the gender gap in lifespan favors women by 11.6 years in Russia, but approaches zero not only in some poor countries such as Mali, but in some high-income regions such as Santa Clara in California.

Furthermore, a study published earlier this year found no significant difference in the proportion of elderly trans men and non-trans men in the United States, implying that behaviors stereotypically associated with male gender might explain why men are more likely to die younger than women.

Male behaviors and attitudes that affect their health – including notions about when it’s ok to seek help – are not fixed byproducts of genes and hormones, but are strongly influenced by culture. A traditional masculine ideal common in the US holds that “the most powerful men among men are those for whom health and safety are irrelevant.”

These ideals, a fatal concoction of risky behavior, anti-intellectualism, and unwillingness to seek help are reinforced by portrayals of masculinity in popular culture that emphasize “toughness, self-reliance, and stoicism” while tending to erase images of male aging and infirmity.

This traditional view of male identity comes with serious health consequences. Men are more likely to smoke and drink than women and therefore are more likely to suffer from health problems related to these behaviors. Importantly, not only are men less likely to see a doctor, they are much less likely to seek psychological help. This is one of the main reasons why suicide rates, both intentional and unintentional from drug overdoses, remain much higher for men than women, and continue to rise.

While men are much less likely to attempt suicide, they are unfortunately much more likely to succeed when they do so, because of their preference for firearms. These issues are only becoming more urgent as the economic dislocations created by the transition to a knowledge-based economy continue to place additional stresses on US culture and communities.

It seems paradoxical that a segment of the US population that has historically enjoyed greater power and privilege can also be considered vulnerable. But unexamined assumptions about biological determinism, compounded by cultural ideas about masculinity, have created a situation that places men at risk for worse health outcomes from a surprisingly early age.

The internalization of a male identity in which seeking help is seen as a sign of weakness begins in childhood and becomes particularly intense during adolescence.

This maladaptation is reflected in widening gender gaps in educational achievement, with girls outperforming boys not only in the United States, but around the world. These gaps persist throughout the educational experience, leading to concerns that boys are not being prepared for success in the modern economy.

At the same time, however, studies show that what men consider “manly” varies by culture, and therefore might be modifiable. When researchers interviewed white patients who had survived a heart attack, they concluded that their “fears of being seen to be weak contributed to delays in seeking medical care and led to reluctance to disclose symptoms to others.”

Yet the same study found that South Asian men “emphasized wisdom, education and responsibility for the family and their own health as more valued masculine attributes, and this contributed to a greater willingness to seek medical help.”

To help close the gap in lifespans between the sexes, a public health campaign with support from the private sector is needed to help reshape what it means for men to seek medical and psychological help.

This might take the form of educational interventions, starting at an early age, that offer an idea of maleness in which seeking help from others is seen as a positive attribute, as well as increased mindfulness of the potential harmfulness of language and images that valorize self-destructive “masculine” behavior.

All of these considerations should occur within a research enterprise that addresses the gender survival chasm as a multifactorial issue that includes biological, psychological and psychobiological issues.

To ensure that our fathers, brothers, sons and friends stop dying prematurely, we need to fundamentally rethink what being a “man” is all about.

Northern Ireland’s women deserve equality. That’s why I’m challenging abortion law | Stella Creasy

The fight for equality isn’t just about what is attacked. It is also about what is ignored. As the Conservatives continue to struggle to strike a deal with the DUP to stay in power, MPs now ask if continuing to deny the rights of Northern Irish women to equal treatment is a price Britain should be willing to pay.

This month Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, fought and won a court case on his right to charge Northern Irish women for abortions if they have them in England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of “respect” for the Northern Irish assembly.

Thus if a Northern Irish woman comes to London and requires an appendectomy, she is given one on the NHS free of charge; but if she needs an abortion, she has to pay – even though as a UK taxpayer she has already contributed to the costs of our health service.

Challenging this is not about overriding devolution, but ensuring it cuts both ways. Without change, a decision made in Belfast has consequences for UK citizens choosing to access services in Birmingham, Blackpool or Brighton.

This year marks 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, which granted reproductive rights to women. It therefore also marks 50 years of differential treatment for women in Northern Ireland. The court case threw this anomaly – and what it says about the reality of equality in the UK – into sharp relief.

On 14 June the supreme court narrowly decided to dismiss an appeal, and confirmed that Jeremy Hunt, as the secretary of state, has the right to make such a decision on our behalf. The case was brought by a young woman who in 2012, as a pregnant 15-year-old girl, was forced to travel to Manchester for an abortion at a cost of £900. The court members were divided three to two, expressing sympathy but arguing they had been restrained by the secretary of state’s view that this was the way to “respect”’ the democratic decisions of the Northern Ireland assembly.

Recent data shows that more than 700 women and girls from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to terminate their pregnancies in 2016. This does not take into account those go to Scotland or other European countries, or women who purchase mifepristone and misoprostol illegally, because of their inability to travel.

The cost of providing terminations safely and legally to these women annually is estimated to be around £350,500. As this case will now go to the European court of human rights, it’s entirely possible that the taxpayers’ money Hunt could spend on court fees – defending his right to charge Northern Irish women for an abortion in England – would exceed the cost of offering such a service.

Hunt’s devolution defence of this policy looks even more unsustainable when you consider our aid spending to ensure women in other countries can access safe abortion services. As part of international development, the UK has spent £3m over the past four years to ensure that “women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, and be able to choose whether, when and how many children to have”.

While the secretary of state may be content to treat Northern Irish women in this way, MPs across parliament are not. The concept of our NHS being free at the point of need to all those who pay into it should not be qualified by place of residency within the UK.

We have asked Hunt to think again through an amendment to the Queen’s speech, and are committed to legislate if the secretary of state does not change his mind. With the prospect of the DUP holding the balance of power in parliament by propping up the government, issues like this stand little chance of resolution unless parliamentarians speak up.

We are clear that the fight for equality cannot be sacrificed to keep Theresa May and Nigel Dodds, the leader of the DUP in the Commons, in the same division lobby. You can ask your MP to be part of challenging this by signing the My Pledge, Her Choice campaign, in partnership with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and the Family Planning Association.

Northern Ireland’s women deserve equality. That’s why I’m challenging abortion law | Stella Creasy

The fight for equality isn’t just about what is attacked. It is also about what is ignored. As the Conservatives continue to struggle to strike a deal with the DUP to stay in power, MPs now ask if continuing to deny the rights of Northern Irish women to equal treatment is a price Britain should be willing to pay.

This month Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, fought and won a court case on his right to charge Northern Irish women for abortions if they have them in England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of “respect” for the Northern Irish assembly.

Thus if a Northern Irish woman comes to London and requires an appendectomy, she is given one on the NHS free of charge; but if she needs an abortion, she has to pay – even though as a UK taxpayer she has already contributed to the costs of our health service.

Challenging this is not about overriding devolution, but ensuring it cuts both ways. Without change, a decision made in Belfast has consequences for UK citizens choosing to access services in Birmingham, Blackpool or Brighton.

This year marks 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, which granted reproductive rights to women. It therefore also marks 50 years of differential treatment for women in Northern Ireland. The court case threw this anomaly – and what it says about the reality of equality in the UK – into sharp relief.

On 14 June the supreme court narrowly decided to dismiss an appeal, and confirmed that Jeremy Hunt, as the secretary of state, has the right to make such a decision on our behalf. The case was brought by a young woman who in 2012, as a pregnant 15-year-old girl, was forced to travel to Manchester for an abortion at a cost of £900. The court members were divided three to two, expressing sympathy but arguing they had been restrained by the secretary of state’s view that this was the way to “respect”’ the democratic decisions of the Northern Ireland assembly.

Recent data shows that more than 700 women and girls from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to terminate their pregnancies in 2016. This does not take into account those go to Scotland or other European countries, or women who purchase mifepristone and misoprostol illegally, because of their inability to travel.

The cost of providing terminations safely and legally to these women annually is estimated to be around £350,500. As this case will now go to the European court of human rights, it’s entirely possible that the taxpayers’ money Hunt could spend on court fees – defending his right to charge Northern Irish women for an abortion in England – would exceed the cost of offering such a service.

Hunt’s devolution defence of this policy looks even more unsustainable when you consider our aid spending to ensure women in other countries can access safe abortion services. As part of international development, the UK has spent £3m over the past four years to ensure that “women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, and be able to choose whether, when and how many children to have”.

While the secretary of state may be content to treat Northern Irish women in this way, MPs across parliament are not. The concept of our NHS being free at the point of need to all those who pay into it should not be qualified by place of residency within the UK.

We have asked Hunt to think again through an amendment to the Queen’s speech, and are committed to legislate if the secretary of state does not change his mind. With the prospect of the DUP holding the balance of power in parliament by propping up the government, issues like this stand little chance of resolution unless parliamentarians speak up.

We are clear that the fight for equality cannot be sacrificed to keep Theresa May and Nigel Dodds, the leader of the DUP in the Commons, in the same division lobby. You can ask your MP to be part of challenging this by signing the My Pledge, Her Choice campaign, in partnership with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and the Family Planning Association.

Northern Ireland’s women deserve equality. That’s why I’m challenging abortion law | Stella Creasy

The fight for equality isn’t just about what is attacked. It is also about what is ignored. As the Conservatives continue to struggle to strike a deal with the DUP to stay in power, MPs now ask if continuing to deny the rights of Northern Irish women to equal treatment is a price Britain should be willing to pay.

This month Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, fought and won a court case on his right to charge Northern Irish women for abortions if they have them in England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of “respect” for the Northern Irish assembly.

Thus if a Northern Irish woman comes to London and requires an appendectomy, she is given one on the NHS free of charge; but if she needs an abortion, she has to pay – even though as a UK taxpayer she has already contributed to the costs of our health service.

Challenging this is not about overriding devolution, but ensuring it cuts both ways. Without change, a decision made in Belfast has consequences for UK citizens choosing to access services in Birmingham, Blackpool or Brighton.

This year marks 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, which granted reproductive rights to women. It therefore also marks 50 years of differential treatment for women in Northern Ireland. The court case threw this anomaly – and what it says about the reality of equality in the UK – into sharp relief.

On 14 June the supreme court narrowly decided to dismiss an appeal, and confirmed that Jeremy Hunt, as the secretary of state, has the right to make such a decision on our behalf. The case was brought by a young woman who in 2012, as a pregnant 15-year-old girl, was forced to travel to Manchester for an abortion at a cost of £900. The court members were divided three to two, expressing sympathy but arguing they had been restrained by the secretary of state’s view that this was the way to “respect”’ the democratic decisions of the Northern Ireland assembly.

Recent data shows that more than 700 women and girls from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to terminate their pregnancies in 2016. This does not take into account those go to Scotland or other European countries, or women who purchase mifepristone and misoprostol illegally, because of their inability to travel.

The cost of providing terminations safely and legally to these women annually is estimated to be around £350,500. As this case will now go to the European court of human rights, it’s entirely possible that the taxpayers’ money Hunt could spend on court fees – defending his right to charge Northern Irish women for an abortion in England – would exceed the cost of offering such a service.

Hunt’s devolution defence of this policy looks even more unsustainable when you consider our aid spending to ensure women in other countries can access safe abortion services. As part of international development, the UK has spent £3m over the past four years to ensure that “women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, and be able to choose whether, when and how many children to have”.

While the secretary of state may be content to treat Northern Irish women in this way, MPs across parliament are not. The concept of our NHS being free at the point of need to all those who pay into it should not be qualified by place of residency within the UK.

We have asked Hunt to think again through an amendment to the Queen’s speech, and are committed to legislate if the secretary of state does not change his mind. With the prospect of the DUP holding the balance of power in parliament by propping up the government, issues like this stand little chance of resolution unless parliamentarians speak up.

We are clear that the fight for equality cannot be sacrificed to keep Theresa May and Nigel Dodds, the leader of the DUP in the Commons, in the same division lobby. You can ask your MP to be part of challenging this by signing the My Pledge, Her Choice campaign, in partnership with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and the Family Planning Association.

Northern Ireland’s women deserve equality. That’s why I’m challenging abortion law | Stella Creasy

The fight for equality isn’t just about what is attacked. It is also about what is ignored. As the Conservatives continue to struggle to strike a deal with the DUP to stay in power, MPs now ask if continuing to deny the rights of Northern Irish women to equal treatment is a price Britain should be willing to pay.

This month Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, fought and won a court case on his right to charge Northern Irish women for abortions if they have them in England and Wales, claiming he was doing so out of “respect” for the Northern Irish assembly.

Thus if a Northern Irish woman comes to London and requires an appendectomy, she is given one on the NHS free of charge; but if she needs an abortion, she has to pay – even though as a UK taxpayer she has already contributed to the costs of our health service.

Challenging this is not about overriding devolution, but ensuring it cuts both ways. Without change, a decision made in Belfast has consequences for UK citizens choosing to access services in Birmingham, Blackpool or Brighton.

This year marks 50 years since the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act, which granted reproductive rights to women. It therefore also marks 50 years of differential treatment for women in Northern Ireland. The court case threw this anomaly – and what it says about the reality of equality in the UK – into sharp relief.

On 14 June the supreme court narrowly decided to dismiss an appeal, and confirmed that Jeremy Hunt, as the secretary of state, has the right to make such a decision on our behalf. The case was brought by a young woman who in 2012, as a pregnant 15-year-old girl, was forced to travel to Manchester for an abortion at a cost of £900. The court members were divided three to two, expressing sympathy but arguing they had been restrained by the secretary of state’s view that this was the way to “respect”’ the democratic decisions of the Northern Ireland assembly.

Recent data shows that more than 700 women and girls from Northern Ireland travelled to England and Wales to terminate their pregnancies in 2016. This does not take into account those go to Scotland or other European countries, or women who purchase mifepristone and misoprostol illegally, because of their inability to travel.

The cost of providing terminations safely and legally to these women annually is estimated to be around £350,500. As this case will now go to the European court of human rights, it’s entirely possible that the taxpayers’ money Hunt could spend on court fees – defending his right to charge Northern Irish women for an abortion in England – would exceed the cost of offering such a service.

Hunt’s devolution defence of this policy looks even more unsustainable when you consider our aid spending to ensure women in other countries can access safe abortion services. As part of international development, the UK has spent £3m over the past four years to ensure that “women and adolescent girls must have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing, and be able to choose whether, when and how many children to have”.

While the secretary of state may be content to treat Northern Irish women in this way, MPs across parliament are not. The concept of our NHS being free at the point of need to all those who pay into it should not be qualified by place of residency within the UK.

We have asked Hunt to think again through an amendment to the Queen’s speech, and are committed to legislate if the secretary of state does not change his mind. With the prospect of the DUP holding the balance of power in parliament by propping up the government, issues like this stand little chance of resolution unless parliamentarians speak up.

We are clear that the fight for equality cannot be sacrificed to keep Theresa May and Nigel Dodds, the leader of the DUP in the Commons, in the same division lobby. You can ask your MP to be part of challenging this by signing the My Pledge, Her Choice campaign, in partnership with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and the Family Planning Association.