Wednesday 28 October 2009

Second and final day of abortion case in Belfast high court

The Belfast high court has concluded the second and final day's hearing in the judicial review of government abortion guidance, brought by SPUC.

Mr James Dingemans QC, SPUC's barrister, reiterated that Northern Ireland law protected the unborn. He rejected claims by the health department that it was acceptable for physicians in the province to apply Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidance to cases in Northern Ireland.

He said that the right to non-participation in abortion was not addressed by the health department's document in the area of questionable cases where two doctors disagreed over the lawfulness of an abortion.

Mr Dingemans restated that the court of appeal had found that the health department had failed in its duty to issue guidance but, once that court had ruled, the guidance had to be proper guidance.

He added that abortion was always illegal; what was legal was an intervention to save a mother's life.

Mr Dingemans pointed out that the RCOG guidance on late term abortion said that the child must not be born alive, or the doctor risked prosecution if his actions after the delivery resulted in the child's death. It would be quite wrong to suggest that obstetricians and gynaecologists should read and apply this principle in Northern Ireland.

The hearing has concluded and judgement has been reserved.

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