Monday 14 December 2009

Belfast court again rejects pro-abortion guidance

The High Court in Belfast has again ruled against government guidance on abortion. Last month, Lord Justice Girvan ordered Northern Ireland's health department to withdraw its guidance on abortion because it was misleading in two key areas. In a subsequent hearing this morning, Lord Justice Girvan not only confirmed his original judgment, but explained that the guidance should be withdrawn in full and not just in part. The case had been brought by SPUC.

Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland, who was at this morning's hearing, told the media today:
"Despite the arguments against the complete withdrawal of the guidance, the department itself made it clear when it was published in March, that its purpose was to explain the law on abortion in Northern Ireland and how it relates to clinical practice. It would make no sense to re-issue the same document and simply leave out two major sections, on counselling and the right of medical personnel not to participate in abortions. Allowing the document to remain in part would have been seriously misleading and may have resulted in grave injustices taking place. We are very glad that will not happen.

"Both counselling and the right to non-participation are central to clinical practice and the implementation of the law. It's extraordinary that the department should have taken the unusual step of asking a judge to reconsider his order and an award of costs once a decision had been reached. It was no surprise, therefore, that Lord Justice Girvan did not change his original decision to order the withdrawal of the whole guidance document. It was because of the significance of these issues and seriousness of the flaws in the guidance that he awarded the costs SPUC incurred in bringing the case. This vindicates our initial criticism of the guidance.

"The department's response to the ruling has been disappointing, but I'm sure that both the Northern Ireland Assembly's all-party pro-life group and the Stormont health committee will now be eager to work with the department to address the deficiencies in the guidance identified by this case."
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