The Supreme Court in Northern Ireland have rejected an appeal from a mother and daughter that women from Northern Ireland should receive free abortions on the NHS in England.
The ruling comes amid PM Theresa May’s talks with Northern Irish
party the DUP to form a government. The Democratic Unionist Party have
famously spoken out against abortion and abortion rights.
The appeal was brought forward by a Northern Irish woman who found herself pregnant at the age of 15. Faced with no other choice, she travelled to England with her mother to have an abortion at a private clinic, at a cost of £900.
When the pair first took the case to the courts, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested that he would be able to get Northern Irish women access to free abortions in England, given that they’re not freely available to them in their home country.
But the new ruling by the Supreme Court means that women from Northern Ireland won’t be able to receive free abortions in England as Hunt proposed.
Delivering the verdict, Lord Wilson admitted that although the appeal was rejected, the panel was “heavily divided” on the issue.
He expressed sympathy for women in that situation, saying that they’d of course be in a “deeply unenviable position”, particularly if they faced “embarrassment, difficulty, and uncertainty” in their “urgent need to raise the necessary funds” to travel to England for private abortions not on the NHS. Lord Wilson also admitted that the financial burden was sure to add to their “emotional strain”.
It’s well known that the laws surrounding abortion in Northern Ireland are far stricter than those in the UK. Women there who are pregnant are not allowed an abortion unless their own life is at risk or there is a permanent serious risk to their mental or physical health. This means that even in incidences such as rape or incest, women are not allowed to
get a legal abortion in Northern Ireland.
Now women from Northern Ireland who don’t meet the criteria of the pregnancy posing a risk to their life or health, will either have to continue to seek unsafe and illegal abortions in Northern Ireland, or be forced to pay hefty fees and travel expenses in order to have one legally in England.