On 31st March, 2020, The Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 came into force. This is a landmark in reproductive rights in Northern Ireland. Many were sceptical as to whether this day would ever arrive. The regulations represent the culmination of decades of activism across civil society, grassroots and medical organizations, legal representatives, and political actors. They constitute a huge step forward in the protection of the reproductive health of women. However, the scope of protection afforded will depend on how they are interpreted and implemented. In this blog we give an overview of the regulations and highlight some areas of on-going concern. (more…)
October 22nd 2019 marked a momentous day for those who have advocated for decades for liberalisation of Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws. Following the implementation of Section 9 of the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act 2019, abortion up until 24 weeks gestation is decriminalised. In addition to this, an obligation has been placed on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to ensure that adequate regulations are in place by the end of March 2020 to ensure a human rights compliant framework for provision of abortion care.
This is the first of a two-part blog. Here we focus on what decriminalisation of abortion means for regulation of abortion in Northern Ireland. In the next part we will provide an account of what the content of human rights compliant abortion regulations should be. (more…)
A comment on R (on the application of A and B) v Secretary of State for Health  UKSC 41.
The start of June 2017 saw abortion law in Northern Ireland (NI) making the news for several reasons. On June 9th, Theresa May announced that she intended to try and form a government with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Members of this radically conservative party from NI have long been vocal in their opposition to abortion. Some feared that restrictions on abortion legislation might form part of negotiations between the two parties. On June 13th, the Department of Health published ‘The Report on abortion statistics in England and Wales for 2016’ which contained details on the number of women who travelled from NI to England to access abortion care. Then, on June 14th, the Supreme Court handed down an important decision on NHS funding for women who travel from NI to England to access abortions. These women, save in exceptional cases, must pay for abortion care privately, notwithstanding their status as UK citizens and (in many cases) UK taxpayers. In this blog we examine the Supreme Court decision and the context within which women travel from NI to have abortions in England.
In 2012 A, a 15-year-old girl, became pregnant. She did not want to continue with the pregnancy and with the support of her mother, B, arranged to have a termination in England. A and B were surprised to find out that as A was resident in NI she would have to pay for the termination in England. Believing this to be unfair B, on A’s behalf, started proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of this policy. Their challenge contained two key claims. First, that the Secretary of State for Health was acting unlawfully in refusing to permit women from NI to access NHS funded abortions [the public law claim]. Second, that women in NI were being discriminated against as compared to other women in the UK [the human rights claim].