Northern Irish duo press for abortion ruling despite parliament win

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Jul 03, 2017
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The unnamed mother and daughter want a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights to ensure a future government cannot backtrack on funding NHS abortions for Northern Irish women

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Two women campaigning for NHS abortions in England to be available to residents of Northern Ireland are to press on with their claim at the European Court of Human Rights despite the British government climbing down over the issue last week.

Lawyers for the mother and daughter, who are known only as A and B, recently lost an appeal before the Supreme Court that would have forced ministers to allow women from the province to have abortions in England funded by the NHS. The ruling was a majority decision of three to two, with the justices expressing sympathy for the women’s claim.

Before the Supreme Court, lawyers for the government argued 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. But two weeks later ministers agreed to providing the funding when they were faced with the prospect of losing a vote on the issue in the House of Commons.

However, the two women remain committed to having a judgment from the European court to ensure that a subsequent government cannot backtrack on Theresa May’s decision.

“A and B are naturally delighted at [the] turn of events which vindicates their decision to take the case to the Supreme Court,” said Angela Jackman, a partner at law firm Simpson Millar, which is acting for the mother and daughter. “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.”

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