Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland women lose abortion ruling appeal

More than 1,000 women each year travel from Northern Ireland to have an abortion in other parts of the UK
Image caption More than 1,000 women each year travel from Northern Ireland to have an abortion in other parts of the UK

Two women have lost their legal challenge at the Court of Appeal to the Health Secretary's policy of not allowing abortions on the NHS for women who travel to England and Wales from Northern Ireland.

The case was brought by a teenage girl and her mother who live in Northern Ireland.

Unlike the rest of the UK, abortion is only allowed in very restricted circumstances in Northern Ireland.

The appeal was dismissed on Wednesday.

The Court of Appeal also refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Last year it was ruled that women from Northern Ireland are not legally entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England,

More than 1,000 women each year travel from Northern Ireland to have an abortion in other parts of the UK.

Those who do travel must pay for their transport, accommodation and the cost of the procedure.

The court heard the total cost is around £900.

The case was brought by the girl, who was 15 at the time (claimant A), and whose identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons.

After becoming pregnant, she travelled to England with her mother (claimant B) in October 2012.

Ruling

The court was previously told her mother had struggled to part-raise funds to pay for her daughter to have a termination privately in England.

Abortion law in Northern Ireland meant it was impossible to have the termination there.

In his judgement last year, Mr Justice King, said the differences in the legal position had "not surprisingly led to a steady stream" of pregnant women from Northern Ireland travelling to England to access abortion services not available to them at home.

But he ruled that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's duty to promote a comprehensive health service in England "is a duty in relation to the physical and mental health of the people of England", and that duty did not extend "to persons who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland".

The judge, in his ruling, said that devolutionary powers have to be taken into consideration.

Because Northern Ireland is not covered by the 1967 Abortion Act, which applies in the rest of the UK, the judge ruled this was not a discrimination issue.

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