Saturday, 23 September, 2017

Abortion law a matter for Stormont, Court of Appeal rules

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not
Sammy Stanley | 30 June, 2017, 00:31

However, because the DUP are staunchly opposed to any expansion of Northern Irish women's abortion rights, the issue could drive a wedge between Theresa May and her new friends.

The UK government just took an important step in announcing - following a campaign and under pressure from parliament - that the National Health Service (NHS) will carry out abortions at no cost to pregnant women and girls from Northern Ireland who travel to England for the procedure.

But what is the amendment, tabled by Stella Creasy, all about?

Earlier this year The Debrief went to Belfast to meet Northern Irish abortion rights activists.

Her remarks came after Tory former cabinet minister Maria Miller labelled the current level of abortion access in Northern Ireland as "wrong".

Things in Northern Ireland can change pretty quickly.

Just last month, the UK's Supreme Court rejected an appeal by a mother and daughter over the rights of women in Northern Ireland to receive free abortions on the NHS in England.

It said the complex moral and religious questions behind the issue should be determined by a legislature rather than a court. Abortion is now illeagal in Northern Ireland. The maximum criminal penalty under the Victorian Offences against the Person Act 1861 - life imprisonment for both the woman undergoing the abortion, and for an individual who assists her - is the harshest in Europe and amongst the harshest in the world. On the one hand, the High Court here has ruled that abortion is a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly, ruling that the restrictions to abortion here do not breach Article 3 or 14 of the Human Rights Act despite the original High Court ruling.

Ms Creasy's amendment called on the government to provide funding so women from Northern Ireland can have abortions in England without being charged about £900.

Again it demonstrates how the public, charities, families even the courts have difficulty reaching a decision and even interpreting the local abortion law. "It means the most to those of us who can afford it the least" Naomi added.

The government has been forced into a major concession on the funding of abortions for women from Northern Ireland to avoid defeat in a vote on the Queen's Speech.

Supporters of the amendment argue that the amendment is not concerned with whether the Northern Irish Assembly is right or wrong in its stance on abortion, but rather addresses the inequality inherent in a situation where United Kingdom citizens and taxpayers have different healthcare rights purely on the basis of where in the country they live.

Northern Ireland's most senior judge, Lord Justice Declan Morgan, invited legal submissions on sending the case to the Supreme Court. The Government (the Department of Justice and Attorney General) appealed, and today the Court of Appeal has allowed their appeal, concluding, by majority view, that the Court should not intervene and that it is a matter for the Assembly to decide. This must include the decriminalisation of abortion. In terms of reproductive rights, they are second-class citizens.

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