NI women awarded compensation over abortion trip costs
A mother and daughter from Northern Ireland who were forced to raise funds to travel to a private clinic in England for an abortion are to be compensated by the Government.
Known only as A and B, the two women began legal proceedings seven years ago after they were forced to raise £900 to make the trip for A to have the abortion.
A European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision published yesterday ruled that A and B will now be compensated by the Government, which will also pay a contribution towards their legal costs.
In 2014, the High Court ruled that women from Northern Ireland were not legally entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England.
The case was then heard on appeal by the Supreme Court in 2017 but was narrowly rejected.
However, within weeks of the ruling, the Government agreed to introduce a scheme to allow women from Northern Ireland to access abortion services free of charge in England, with those on low incomes also permitted to claim travel expenses.
Despite the concessions, with no guarantees that the voluntary scheme would remain in place, A and B pursued an application to the ECHR pleading breaches of Article 8 (respect for private life) and Article 14 (discrimination).
Speaking yesterday after the decision was published, the family's lawyer Angela Jackman, a partner at law firm Simpson Millar and Senior Law Lecturer at Consultant at the City Law School, said that this had been an "important case" which had helped to "raise awareness" of the discrepancy in access to NHS-funded abortion services for women in Northern Ireland.
"A and B's application to the European Court has finally resolved through a friendly settlement between the parties," she said.
"Terms include payment of compensation by the UK government to A and B, and a contribution towards their legal costs.
"This is a very important case which proved instrumental in raising widespread awareness of the discrepancy in access to NHS-funded abortion services for women in Northern Ireland.
"It also played a part in highlighting the inconsistent and incredibly restrictive laws in Northern Ireland which, until recently, prohibited lawful abortion except in extremely limited circumstances.
"It is notable that the UK government's concession in June 2017 specifically quoted the Supreme Court's decision in A and B as permitting it to implement the concession.
"Thousands of women have since benefited and many more will continue to benefit until services are available in Northern Ireland."
A and B were only able to afford the abortion and associated travel costs thanks to financial support from Abortion Support Network, a UK-based charity which provides financial assistance, accommodation and consultation to women from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, Malta and Gibraltar seeking abortions in Great Britain.