BBC News, October 8, 2004
Landmark ruling on abortion
A landmark judgement means fewer
Northern Ireland women may have to travel to
England for an abortion.
In the Court of Appeal in Belfast on Friday,
three senior judges ordered the Department
of Health to draw up guidelines on when abortions
can be carried out under existing law.
The ruling upheld an appeal by the Family Planning
Association against the dismissal of a judicial
review last year, when it was declared there
was no onus on the department to set out guidelines.
However, Lord Justice Nicholson said on Friday
that it did not mean anyone could claim the
law should be liberalised as a result of the
Currently, abortion is only permissible in Northern
Ireland where the mother's life is in danger
or there is a serious threat to her mental
or physical health.
Northern Ireland women, who do not comply with
these conditions, travel to Britain where abortion
is more freely available.
Since the 1967 Abortion Act was passed there,
some 64,000 women from the province have had
abortions in England or Wales.
Lord Justice Nicholson said any change in the
law was a matter for Parliament and not the
But he said he believed doctors were not adequately
aware of the principles that govern the law
in Northern Ireland.
He said new guidelines could help them.
He stressed, however, that it did not mean that
anyone could claim the law should be liberalized
as a result of the judgment.
The parties in the case have until 29 October
to make written submissions about the precise
form of the guidelines.
The court will then decide if more oral submissions
Dismissing the judicial review last year, Sir
Brian Kerr, now Lord Chief Justice, declared
there was no onus on the department to set
But he went on to express the view that it would
be "prudent" to do so.
The respondent in the case was the Department
of Health and their stance was supported by
anti-abortion groups including the Northern
Catholic Bishops, the Society for the Protection
of Unborn Children, Precious Life and Life.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/10/08 12:07:35 GMT
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