Pro-lifers have won permission for a legal action against Northern Ireland health chiefs in the latest round of a battle against controversial abortion guidance.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) claims the Department of Health has breached a court order for complete withdrawal of the guidance.
Last year, the High Court ruled that the advice on abortion was “misleading” and ordered the document to be completely withdrawn.
At the time, the Department of Health asked the court if two contentious sections could be reconsidered rather than the full guidance, but the judge rejected that.
However, the department has reissued the same guidance with the two sections removed.
SPUC has now been granted permission for a judicial review of this decision, arguing that it breaches the court order for the full document to be withdrawn.
Liam Gibson, from SPUC Northern Ireland, criticised the health department’s handling of the incident.
Speaking outside the court he said: “Today’s events are yet more evidence of the bitter and irrational approach taken by the Department of Health to the issue of abortion guidance. At the very last minute the Department asked the judge for an adjournment but refused to give any reasons for a four-week delay.
“Sadly, this is the way the department has behaved all along. It has disregarded public opinion, the will of the Assembly, the Stormont health committee and even the high court, in order to pursue an agenda of widening the scope for abortion in Northern Ireland.”
“A document that says nothing about counselling of women or the rights of medical staff cannot possibly provide adequate guidance to doctors. Naturally, we’re pleased that Mr Justice Treacy has granted leave for the case to proceed”, he added.
A date for the hearing of the new challenge has yet to be set.
Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk.
Earlier this week newly released official figures showed that during 2009 a staggering 195,743 abortions were performed in England and Wales, with a further 13,005 terminations being performed in Scotland.
The official stats revealed that of the abortions carried out on women resident in England and Wales, 63,309 – 34 per cent of the total – were for women who had previously had at least one abortion.
And of the abortions carried out in Scotland, this figure stood at 3,658, accounting for 28 per cent of the total.