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         July 2017


Unborn babies still to be protected in Northern Ireland

Unborn babies in Northern Ireland will continue to be protected from liberal abortion laws, as a result of a victory in the UK Supreme Court. The Supreme Court voted three to two to reject an appeal for women in Northern Ireland to have access to free abortions in England funded by the NHS. 

The appeal was lodged by a 15-year-old girl and her mother who, five years ago, travelled over to Manchester from Northern Ireland to have an abortion at a private clinic at a cost of £900. They argued that the current abortion ban in Northern Ireland is wrongful as it hinders women from Northern Ireland from having access to free abortions funded by the NHS despite being UK residents and taxpayers.

As he delivered the verdict, Lord Wilson commented that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had done the right thing in respecting “the democratic decision of the people of Northern Ireland not to fund abortion services”. (As quoted by Christian Institute). As a result of devolution, NHS services are provided by individual authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Abortion Act was passed in 1967, but it has never applied to Northern Ireland and abortions continue to be illegal there.

The Iona Institute, a pro-life group, commented saying that Northern Ireland “should be proud of its life-saving abortion law” and also "At a time when scientific advances have given us an amazing ‘window’ into babies in the womb, we are right to continue to reject the permissive British abortion model.” Liam Gibson, representing SPUC, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, lauded the decision and added that failure to respect the current law “would inevitably result in killing of babies on a massive scale, just as it has in the rest of the UK”. (As quoted by Christian Institute)

In the last decade, statistics show that the number of women travelling from Northern Ireland to the UK to have an abortion has decreased; in 2016, 724 women travelled over to have an abortion, the lowest figure since the Abortion Act was passed in 1967.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has stated that it is considering changing its policy in order to assist abortion-seeking women from Northern Ireland. One government spokesman quoted in the Sunday Times has said "We are supportive of all women having access to safe and legal abortions. We will carefully consider last week's Supreme Court judgement and implications it may have in Scotland." (As quoted in Irish News)