(CNN)Women and girls in Northern Ireland will receive access to abortion services in the Republic of Ireland as of next year, Irish Health Minister Simon Harris announced Thursday morning.
Women in Northern Ireland to get access to abortion services in Republic
Harris told Irish broadcaster RTE that it is a "matter of great regret" that women and girls in Northern Ireland are not currently able to access critical abortion services in the Republic of Ireland.
He added that it was "appropriate and important" that these women should be able to access these services rather than being forced to travel to other parts of the UK.
Women in Northern Ireland have previously been unable to travel to the Republic of Ireland for abortions, because the Republic's ban on the practice was only revoked in its landslide referendum in May, with legislation currently passing through parliament. Harris pledged to work toward passing the legislation ahead of parliament's Christmas vacation, with the intention of implementing services as early as January.
His statements came ahead of his meeting with pro-choice activists in Northern Ireland Thursday afternoon, and were welcomed by abortion campaigners.
"We welcome the Minister's commitment to ensure access to abortion services for women from Northern Ireland," Grainne Teggart, Amnesty UK's Northern Ireland campaigns manager, told CNN.
"However, it serves to underscore the absurd situation we find ourselves in, where women from Northern Ireland will soon be able to travel by train to have an abortion, but still won't be able to access safe and legal abortions at home.