The Supreme Court Has Rejected An Appeal For Women In Northern Ireland's Right To Receive NHS Abortions

The Supreme Court Has Rejected An Appeal For Women In Northern Ireland's Right To Receive NHS Abortions

Northern Ireland hold a pretty strict stance on abortion, and the UK's highest court has stuck by the country's laws to reject an appeal made to entitle women from Northern Ireland to be entitled to free abortions on the NHS in England.

The appeal was made by a mother and daughter who have endured a tough legal battle to try and make abortions available for women in Northern Ireland if they're prepared to travel to England for the procedure.

The mother took her daughter to England in 2012 for an abortion, after the 15 year old fell pregnant. The procedure took place in a private clinic and cost £900.

The appeal was dismissed with a three to two majority after judges were left "sharply divided", with Lord Wilson saying it was not the court's responsibility to "address the ethical considerations which underlie the difference" between the laws of Northern Ireland and England.

 Judge Lord Wilson of the Supreme Court. Credit: UK Supreme Court

Judge Lord Wilson of the Supreme Court. Credit: UK Supreme Court

As it stands, the laws in Northern Ireland stand that terminations are only permitted if a woman's life is at risk, or if there is a serious risk to her health, whether that be physically or mentally. Despite that, the law doesn't allow abortions in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, incest, or even rape.

Lord Wilson spoke of the current law, describing women with unwanted pregnancies in Northern Ireland as being put in a "deeply unenviable position", and spoke of how they faced "embarrassment, difficulty, and uncertainty [in their] urgent need to raise the necessary funds" to travel to the UK for private procedures, with finances adding to their "emotional strain".

According to figures from the UK Department of Health, 700 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England for abortions in 2016. The issue is ongoing within courts in Northern Ireland, and fingers crossed women will soon be entitled the right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy without having to leave their own country.

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