The Belfast high court has concluded the first day's hearing in the judicial review of government abortion guidance, brought by SPUC.
Mr James Dingemans, SPUC's barrister, outlined to Lord Justice Girvan why the government's guidance was inadequate and needs to be withdrawn and re-examined so that it deals more adequately with the issues. He drew attention to the issue of informed consent. He also highlighted the lack of information in the guidance which doctors could pass on to their patients about the risks and other potential consequences of abortion, in particular the mental health impact.
Mr Dingemans also said that, despite the health department's claims, unborn children in Northern Ireland had rights. Sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act and the 1945 Northern Ireland Criminal Justice Act both safeguard those rights. Abortion actually has been an offence in common law going back much further than that.
Mr Dingemans said that women were entitled to treatment which protected their lives, but it was wholly misleading for the health department to portray the law as allowing so-called termination of pregnancy services. He also pointed out that media commentators had mistakenly concluded that the government's guidance suggested that abortion had been liberalized in Northern Ireland.
The hearing continues tomorrow (28 October) and is expected to conclude then.
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