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Northern Irish women not entitled to free abortions in England, court rules

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that women from Northern Ireland are not entitled to free access to abortions.

THE UK SUPREME Court has rejected an appeal by a mother and daughter to allow women from Northern Ireland to receive free abortions on the NHS.

A panel of Supreme Court judges narrowly rejected the appeal in a three to two majority decision this morning in London.

The decision confirms an earlier ruling that women who travel to England from Northern Ireland cannot receive free abortions on the NHS.

Over 700 women from Northern Ireland who needed abortions last year traveled to England to get treatment.

In Northern Ireland, terminations are only permitted if a woman’s life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.

Abortions are not permitted in the cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities.

The 20-year-old woman who took the appeal was told she had to pay hundreds for a private termination because she was excluded from free abortion services when she traveled from Northern Ireland to Manchester in October 2012.

Pro-choice campaigners have condemned this decision.

“This ruling shows the hypocrisy of the current laws in Northern Ireland,” Abortion Rights Campaign spokesperson Lisa Kavanagh said.

The people of Northern Ireland pay for the NHS with their taxes but cannot access the full range of healthcare services that the people of England and Wales enjoy.

The mother and daughter, who cannot be named for legal reasons, originally lost their High Court action in May 2014.

The judge decided that the Minister for Health was entitled to take on a system based on the individual’s place of residency, so that women living in Northern Ireland are not allowed benefit from NHS abortion services in England, despite the fact that they are UK citizens.

The pair suffered a second defeat at the Court of Appeal in 2015.

In relation to today’s decision, RTE reported that the Supreme Court judge Lord Wilson said it was not for the court to “address the ethical considerations which underlie the difference” in Northern Irish and English abortion law.

“But the fact is that the law in Northern Ireland puts most women in unwanted pregnancy there in a deeply unenviable position,” he said.

Kavanagh said that even if today’s ruling went in favour of the mother and daughter, they still deserved to get healthcare at home, rather than being aided financially to travel to a different part of the UK.

Read: ‘I literally don’t know another female track-and-field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion’

More: Irish women account for seven in 10 non-resident abortions carried out in UK

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