Government Will Fund Abortions In England For Women From Northern Ireland
The Law Of… Fighting Against Discrimination
A & B are going to continue their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over a breach of fundamental human rights.
A mother and daughter, known only as ‘A and B’ for legal reasons, are encouraged by the Chancellor’s announcement that the Government will fund abortions for women coming to England from Northern Ireland.
They look forward to seeing the detail of the Government’s proposal. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court narrowly dismissed A and B’s case that the discrimination they faced due to the lack of funding was unjustified, but this U-turn by the government vindicates their decision to pursue this issue through the Courts.
In deciding to bring their challenge to the Secretary of State for Health’s decision not to provide access to abortion services to women from Northern Ireland five years ago, A and B were determined that no other women should go through the experience and trauma that they did in trying to raise funds and travel to England.
They remain committed to securing what they consider to be a basic right of Northern Irish women to access abortion services and they will continue with their fight in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to ensure that this hard-won concession cannot be reversed when the Government finds it politically expedient to do so.
In the Supreme Court, the Government argued strongly that in not funding abortions for Northern Irish women on the NHS in England it was respecting the decisions of the devolved government in Northern Ireland to have stricter laws on abortion. A majority of the Supreme Court agreed, but two weeks later the Government has effectively jettisoned that justification.
The snap announcement by the Government undermines the reasoning they relied upon in persuading the Supreme Court, by 3 votes to 2, to reject A and B’s claim.
Carrying On The Fight
Continuing the case in Strasbourg is important for a number of reasons.
First, A and B were caused loss by the Government’s discriminatory failures to provide services and will seek recompense both for their financial loss and the stress and anxiety caused to them.
Second, A and B’s case is that women from Northern Ireland have a fundamental right not to be discriminated against in the provision of abortion services by the NHS in England, and their access to services should not be dependent on the whim of the Government of the day.
Third, it is now more important than ever that the Strasbourg court reconsiders the Supreme Court ruling that discrimination was justified (as the Government has now abandoned the justification), as that ruling may have repercussions in many other areas.
Simpson Millar's Angela Jackman, the solicitor acting for A and B, states:
“A and B are naturally delighted at today’s turn of events, which vindicates their decision to take the case to the Supreme Court."
"But it is important to fight on in the European Court of Human Rights to establish that Northern Ireland women have the fundamental right not to be discriminated against. It is not enough for something as important as this to be left to a last minute capitulation because the Government was concerned it would lose a vote on the issue – there are important points of principle at stake."
More information is available in Simpson Millar’s press release following the Supreme Court judgement, here:
A and B are crowdfunding in order to bring their case to Strasbourg. To support A and B’s campaign, visit: www.crowdjustice.com/case/abortion-rights
Supreme Court case ref: A & B v Secretary of State for Health – UKSC2015/0220