Act for the Act – Public Law, Abortion and the Human Rights Act
At Simpson Millar, we're proud to be supporting the #ActfortheAct poster campaign which is raising awareness of how the Human Rights Act helps to RIGHT serious WRONGS in people's lives. With the Government currently planning to scrap our Human Rights Act (HRA), it is more important than ever to stand up in its defence.
Our solicitors have first-hand experience of exactly how much the HRA helps to protect our clients in vulnerable situations
. Our Partner and Public Law expert
, Angela Jackman, is currently fighting for a change in the law regarding NHS funding for women from Northern Ireland who have to travel to England for terminations. The HRA has been central to defending women's rights in this case.
Angela's Northern Ireland Abortion Case
In Northern Ireland, it is still illegal for women to have an abortion, the only exception being if the mother's life or long term health is at risk. The result of this is that each year, hundreds of women find themselves forced into spending hundreds of pounds travelling over to the UK for an abortion.
Angela is currently representing a young woman and her mother, who are known as 'A & B'
, in their case to see a change in the law. , A's abortion cost £600, as well as £300 spent on travel costs. It is evident that for many women and their families, this cost is simply not fair or affordable.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, however it was accepted that human rights legislation is relevant to the case. The HRA, in particular Article 8 (right to private and family life) and Article 14 (right not to be discriminated again) provide hope. Angela is now in the process of seeking permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal to take this case to the Supreme Court
How the Human Rights Act could Help
Lord Justice Elias accepted in the case that human rights legislation could apply to this case, he said: "I consider that the denial of the right to a free abortion, thereby putting stress and pressure on women and sometimes their relatives who cannot afford to pay for an abortion, is treatment which engages Article 8 (1)… Once a state has agreed to fund abortions for some women, as the Secretary of State in England has done, I have no doubt that it is conferring a right falling within the ambit of Article 8 since it bears directly on personal autonomy." "This is particularly so given that for some women, as for this appellant and her mother, additional stress may result from concerns about finding the money necessary to enable her to have access to a private abortion. The rules determining who should receive the free service and who should be excluded may therefore engage the discrimination principle in Article 14."
Hope for the Future
Angela continues to pursue this case and is positive about taking the case further with the help of human rights legislation: "We have achieved some success in that the Court of Appeal has confirmed the significance of human rights legislation for this important issue. My clients did not give up last year and do not intend to give up now. We will seek to bring this appeal before the Supreme Court and if necessary, apply to Strasbourg particularly in light of the favourable rulings on Articles 8 and 14."
Without the HRA, this further appeal would be limited and the fight to provide a fairer system for women in Northern Ireland would be restricted. The Human Rights Act helps to provide protection for individuals, often in vulnerable situation, who would otherwise have no further recourse. It is for this reason that we're supporting the #ActfortheAct
campaign. Take a moment to look out for the campaign posters on public transport, follow @Actfortheact and visit their website at www.actfortheact.uk to show your support.