Belfast Telegraph

Challenge over prosecution of mother who obtained abortion pills to be heard

The case before Belfast High Court, known as JR76, represents the latest challenge to Northern Ireland’s restrictive laws on terminations.

A legal challenge against a decision to prosecute a mother who obtained abortion pills for her teenage daughter in Northern Ireland will be heard later.

The woman is judicially reviewing the move to prosecute her for procuring abortion medication for her pregnant 15-year-old child.

The case before Belfast High Court, known as JR76, represents the latest challenge to Northern Ireland’s restrictive laws on terminations.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning abortion is illegal except where a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is facing two counts of procuring and supplying the abortion drugs with the intent to procure a miscarriage, contrary to the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

She could face up to five years in prison if convicted.

The woman is taking a judicial review, claiming the decision to prosecute contravenes her human rights. The case is due to be heard over two days.

The mother is supported by Amnesty International and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which are both intervenors in the case.

In the summer, the Commission lost a Supreme Court appeal over the legality of the region’s abortion law.

But a majority of judges said the existing law was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

The mother at the centre of the latest case has previously spoken of the impact the decision to prosecute has had on her and her family.

“The fear and pain of it all – I feel like I am not allowed to move on,” she said.

Ahead of the hearing, her solicitor Jemma Conlon said: “This is an important day for my client. At the centre of this case is a loving mother and daughter who, over the past five years, have had to repeatedly endure and relive a private and distressing time in their lives.

“If we’re successful in our challenge to the prosecution, this will contribute to the dismantling of a law that for so long has been used as a weapon against women and girls’ rights.”

Grainne Teggart, from Amnesty International, added: “This case is the first ever direct challenge to a prosecution under Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law.

“All this mother has done is help her daughter access abortion pills that are prescribed free on the NHS in every other part of the UK. This is an obvious and cruel injustice.

“This woman has done nothing wrong and yet our laws treat her as a criminal. It’s unacceptable that she has had to suffer and endure five distressing years of legal battles and a fight against a prison sentence.”

Anti-abortion activists gathered outside the High Court the last time the case was listed.

They argued that the judicial review should be rejected, stressing the importance of upholding the law in regard to abortions in Northern Ireland.

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