Challenge to Bar on NHS Abortion Services for NI Women to Continue

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The Court of Appeal has handed down judgment in this landmark case concerning the position of hundreds of pregnant women forced to travel to the UK mainland each year and pay hundreds of pounds for a termination as they cannot obtain abortion services on the NHS in England.

Angela Jackman faces challenges at The Court of Appeal

Angela Jackman, a partner at law firm Simpson Millar, represents a young woman and her mother, known only as 'A & B'. Currently, abortion in Northern Ireland is only legal in exceptional circumstances if the life or long-term health of a pregnant woman is at risk.

Whilst the Court of Appeal has dismissed the appeal, it disagreed with the Secretary of State for Health's position on the applicability of human rights legislation and confirmed the relevance of Article 8(1) (right to private and family life) and Article 14 (right not to be discriminated against) in this area of law. Lord Justice Elias stated:

"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."

Angela is seeking permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal with a view to taking the landmark case to the Supreme Court as the inability of women from Northern Ireland to receive free NHS abortions in England, despite being UK citizens, remains of such huge significance.

The case is brought by (A) and her mother (B) who travelled from Northern Ireland to Manchester for A's abortion where the operation cost £600 on top of travel costs of £300.

Angela says:

"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."


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