Belfast Telegraph

No free abortions in England for Northern Ireland women, High Court rules

The High Court in London has ruled that women from Northern Ireland are not entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England.

The decision follows a case brought by brought by a girl, referred to as "A", unable to access services free of charge.

Each year more than 1,000 women travel from Northern Ireland to other parts of the UK to have an abortion.

Abortions in Northern Ireland can only be carried out where there is a threat to the life of the mother, or if continuing the pregnancy would have other serious, permanent physical or mental health effects.

The current strict circumstances in Northern Ireland for when abortions are allowed were challenged earlier this year.

Northern Ireland is not covered by the 1967 Abortion Act and every year more than 1,000 women travel from the region to clinics in England, Scotland and Wales where access to an abortion is allowed up to 24 weeks into pregnancy on grounds that include abnormalities which could lead to a child being seriously disabled.

Mr Justice King, handing down judgment at London's High Court, said the differences in the legal position had "not surprisingly led to a steady stream" of pregnant women from Northern Ireland to England to access abortion services not available to them at home.

But he ruled that the Health Secretary's duty to promote a comprehensive health service in England "is a duty in relation to the physical and mental health of the people of England", and that duty did not extend "to persons who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland".

Further Reading

Alliance Party conference: Nearly 75% want abortion law liberalised

Abortions on rise as 51 were performed by trusts in Northern Ireland last year

Northern Ireland's abortion law may change for rape and incest pregnancies

Consultation on abortion law reform

Department of Health is told to pay for abortion advice case

SDLP plans to debate contentious issue of abortion in the New Year 

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