The High Court in London has ruled that women from Northern Ireland are not legally entitled to receive free abortions in England under the NHS.
The High Court was hearing a case brought by a 17-year-old girl and her mother, both from Northern Ireland, who hoped to come to the mainland to receive an abortion on the NHS.
Abortions are not widely available in Northern Ireland and are only offered in extreme circumstances when there is a serious threat to the life of the mother.
As a result of Northern Ireland’s tough rules, more than 1000 women travel across the Irish Sea to England to seek an abortion. It is estimated that the total cost including the transport, accommodation and the cost of the procedure is around £900.
The girl was just 15 when she fell pregnant back in 2012. She travelled with her mother to England to have an abortion. The court heard that her mother had to scrape together the money to pay for the trip.
The girl had hoped that her case, that she was discriminated against by the NHS’s policy on payment of abortions for Northern Ireland citizens, would result in the cost of her abortion being met by the UK Government.
However, the judge ruled that the issue of abortion could not be one of discrimination, as Northern Ireland is not covered by the Abortion Act 1967, and therefore the issue of abortion is one for the devolved parliament at Stormont.
Angela Jackman is the lawyer representing the young girl.
“This is an important issue for thousands of women in Northern Ireland, and there have been recent calls in Parliament for changes in the law,” she said.
“Why should women from Northern Ireland have to pay for this health service in England despite being UK citizens?” she added.
She said that she intended to take the case to the Court of Appeal.
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