Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Mother And Daughter For Free NHS Abortions For Northern Irish Women

The Supreme Court justices have announced that their three to two majority decision ruled against the appeal

Supreme Court Rejects Appeal From Mother And Daughter For Free NHS Abortions For Northern Irish Women

by Tara Pilkington |
Published on

A mother and daughter have had their appeal for women from Northern Island to receive free abortions on the NHS in England, narrowly rejected by the Supreme Court.

The woman at the centre of appeal, who is now 20 years old, was 15 in October 2012 when she and her mother travelled from Northern Island to Manchester in order to receive an abortion. When she arrived, she was told that she would have to pay hundreds of pounds for a private termination because she was excluded from free abortion services that are currently provided on the NHS.

The mother and daughter originally lost their action in the High Court in London in May 2014 after a judge concluded that the exclusion was lawful. The judge ruled that the British health secretary was entitled to adopt a residence-based system so that women resident in Northern Ireland are not entitled to benefit from NHS abortion services in England, even though they are UK citizens.

When announcing the Supreme Court’s decision, Lord Wilson said that the justices had been ‘sharply divided’ about the outcome, however, the majority had concluded that the Health Secretary was entitled to reach the decision that he did. He added that it was not for the court to ‘address the ethical considerations which underlie the difference’ in the law concerning abortion in Northern Ireland and England and said ‘but the fact is that the Law in Northern Ireland puts most women in unwanted pregnancy are in a deeply unenviable position.’

The mother and daughter have now vowed to take their case to Europe and have said, ‘we are really encouraged that two of the judges found in our favour and all of the judges were sympathetic to A's situation. We have come this far and fought hard because the issues are so important for women in Northern Ireland.’

They also added, ‘for this reason, we will do all that we can to take the fight further. We have instructed our legal team to file an application with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, to protect the human rights of the many other women who make the lonely journey to England every week because they are denied access to basic healthcare services in their own country.’

It's worth noting that this week Theresa May is looking to form a coalition minority government with the support of the Northern Irish DUP, a political party which, among other things, doesn't believe in abortion in any circumstances, including rape.

But really it shouldn’t have taken us all an election for us all to be more aware of the abortion rights for women in Northern Island. Whilst many of us may have already had some knowledge of the situation, it's only since the recent general election results that we've seen more widespread outrage on social media from women outside of Northern Island, as well as those that have been living under the restrictive policies of the DUP for some time.

This verdict from the Supreme Court indicates a need for people in the UK to stand in solidarity with women in Northern Island who have once again been denied access to healthcare that they deserve and need. Body autonomy, including a women’s access to impartial, unbiased, and safe healthcare, is vital, and preventing women from accessing abortions is a very real and very dangerous form of control. A women’s body is not a battleground and should never be used as a bartering chip in political or religious warfare. And the fact that politicians still need reminding of this in 2017 is pretty shocking.

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Follow Tara on Twitter @TaraPilks

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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