Reacting to the High Court decision to grant leave to the FPA to apply for a judicial review of the department's actions in re-drafting the guidance, Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland development officer, told the media today:
"It is clear that the FPA is trying to bounce the Minister into issuing abortion guidance because they believe that the longer it takes to produce the guidance the harder it will be to use it to undermine the current law.
"The Minister has told pro-life members of the Assembly that he is committed to ensuring that Northern Ireland's laws prohibiting abortions are properly applied. The FPA is worried by this and that is why they are trying to force the Minister to issue the guidance without any further revision.
"When misleading guidance was issued by the minister's predecessor, it was successfully challenged on two occasions by SPUC and had to be withdrawn. Serious flaws were identified in the areas of counselling for women considering abortion and the right of medical personnel not to take part in abortions. Since then the department has been revising the guidance and reviewing the way data on the small number of lawful abortions in the Province is collected.
"As a result of SPUC's legal challenge of the previous guidance, the judge ruled that the whole document needed to be revised. Since then there has been growing pressure for accurate data on the abortions performed within the Province. In February the Minister asked health officials to bring forward proposals to allow for more detailed records to be kept. The FPA opposed this decision because it knows that more detailed information could potentially expose many of those abortions as unlawful."
A two-day hearing of the application has been scheduled for 21 and 22 January 2013.
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