Judge gives go-ahead for NI abortion law challenge

Belfast High Court has given a pro-life group permission to challenge Northern Ireland’s health chiefs over abortion guidelines it says are “misleading”.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland unless the mother’s life is at risk, but the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) believes the guidance for health workers fails to reflect this.

The group’s Liam Gibson said the guidance, produced by Northern Ireland’s Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, “is so fatally flawed that it will lead to the situation where no abortion in Northern Ireland would be considered impermissible”.

Mr Justice Weatherup ruled yesterday that SPUC could proceed with a judicial review of the guidance.

SPUC is arguing its case on the grounds that in its guidance the Department “erred in law in its view of the law on abortion in Northern Ireland”, and “is misleading and/or does not accurately portray the law on abortion in Northern Ireland”.

It also says that in publishing the guidance in its present form the department had failed “to recognise properly the rights of the unborn child”.

The guidance also failed to deal with circumstances where a child to be aborted could be born alive, or what to do if a child is aborted alive, the group says.

Liam Gibson, of SPUC Northern Ireland, said: “We hope that the department will now be reasonable and redraft the guidance which were fundamentally flawed and need radical revision.”

Outside the court, Audrey Simpson of prominent pro-abortion group the FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) expressed frustration at the decision.

“We had planned to produce an information leaflet for women so they know what their rights are, but we can’t do that now until we know how the judicial review will go, and whether it will be amended,” she said.

FPA and other pro-abortion groups have been pushing for abortion to be legalised in Northern Ireland for some time.

Last year the group produced a video for schoolgirls in which it claimed that concerns over the mental health risks associated with abortion were “myths” and that “few” women suffered any problems.

This week the group showed a ‘hard-hitting’ film in Parliament arguing for the more liberal abortion law in Great Britain to be extended to Northern Ireland.

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