Health officials in Northern Ireland are to appear in court over new abortion guidelines which a pro-life group says distort the current law.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) is seeking a judicial review after the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety rejected its calls for the abortion guidance to be replaced.
Abortion is only lawful in Northern Ireland if the mother’s life is endangered.
But the guidance says doctors are allowed to perform abortions if necessary to preserve the life of the mother or if there is a risk of real, long-term or permanent damage to her mental health.
SPUC says this makes the guidance “so fatally flawed that it will lead to the situation where no abortion in Northern Ireland would be considered impermissible.
“Doctors, nurses and midwives would be compelled to facilitate abortions even though they could be at risk of committing a criminal offence.”
SPUC has been told that its application for judicial review will be heard in the Belfast High Court at the end of June.
Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland said: “The pro-life movement has done everything possible to ensure that this guidance fully reflected the law.
“Unfortunately the department has simply refused to take on board the legal protection for children prior to birth, leaving us no choice but to bring this matter before the courts.”