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Three judges affirm decision that National Health Service not required to pay for abortions of women coming to England from Northern Ireland

by | Jul 23, 2015

By Dave Andrusko

The case was rejected by three judges in London following a hearing last month

The case was rejected by three judges in London following a hearing last month

Last year NRL News Today reported on a girl identified only as “A” who’d lost her lawsuit demanding that pregnant women traveling from Northern Ireland to England should have their abortions paid for by the National Health Service.

That May 2014 decision by Justice King was appealed by the girl, who was 15 at the time of her 2012 abortion, and her mother, identified only as “B.” Not surprisingly, the Alliance for Choice organization, which campaigns for widespread legal abortion in Northern Ireland, backed the plaintiffs, according to the Irish Times.

After hearing arguments last month, yesterday three judges in London–Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Elias, and Lord Justice McCombe–affirmed Justice King’s decision.

At that hearing, Angela Jackman, the plaintiffs’ attorney, was not shy about her aims. She saw this as a “landmark” case because women from Northern Ireland were unable “to receive free NHS [National Health Service]  abortions in England, despite being UK citizens.”

Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are very protective of the unborn. The girl paid $937 for her October 2012 abortion which took place at the Marie Stopes clinic in Manchester.

Among other points made by Justice King was that the Health Secretary’s duty to promote a comprehensive health service in England “is a duty in relation to the physical and mental health of the people of England,” and that duty did not extend “to persons who are ordinarily residents in Northern Ireland.”

Justice King also concluded that “A’s” mother did not understand that the residence-based system reflected “the separation of powers between the health services in the four jurisdictions in the [United Kingdom]”–England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

In addition, “He declared ‘A’ had no right under Article 8 (right to privacy and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights to a state-funded abortion, and there was no breach of anti-discrimination laws under Article 14,” the Irish Times reported.

The three judges were equally un-persuaded. The following quotes are all from the Irish Times.

“There was nothing irrational in the approach of the secretary of state,” Lord Justice Elias said. “It is entirely logical to provide a range of NHS services throughout the UK on the basis of local residence requirements.”

The judge added that it “could not conceivably be said that the secretary of state is obliged to exercise his discretion so as to extend free abortion services to such women.”

He said: “It is not irrational to take the view that English taxpayers should not have to bear the cost of providing abortion services to women from Northern Ireland.”

The fact that Northern Ireland “does not provide these services because it still considers that abortion should, in most circumstances, be illegal does not compel the Secretary of State to take a different approach to women from that area.”

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