Monday 30 November 2009

SPUC victory in Northern Ireland abortion case

The Belfast high court has this morning ruled in favour of SPUC's challenge of government abortion guidance in Northern Ireland.

Lord Justice Girvan ruled in favour of SPUC's challenge on two grounds. SPUC argued that because abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, it was wrong to expect medical providers to give non-directive counselling to women who might be considering abortion. SPUC also argued that the government's guidance was wrong regarding non-participation in abortion (conscientious objection). The judge ruled in favour of SPUC on these points. The judge awarded costs against the Northern Ireland Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Speaking from outside the court, Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland told the media:
"We are very pleased that the court has highlighted some of the problems with the health department’s abortion guidance. We hope that the department will now take seriously many of the concerns which were largely disregarded when the guidelines were being drafted.

"Abortion is not health care. In Northern Ireland it is a criminal offence. It is simply extraordinary that a government department should have issued guidance on criminal legislation and not have once mentioned the victim of the crime. In illegal abortion the primary victim is the unborn child and any new guidance that the department brings forward needs to take fully into account the duty of care and the legal protection owed to the child before birth.

"Abortion doesn’t only kill children it also hurts women. There is a huge amount of evidence that abortion can damage the physical and mental health of women. If the department is serious about providing aftercare for women hurt by abortion then health officials cannot continue to ignore the evidence of post-abortion trauma. More needs to be done to warn women of the consequences of abortion but there has to be more help for women facing a crisis pregnancy as well.

"The law in Northern Ireland protects both women and children and new guidance must reflect that."
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