Friday 26 February 2010

SPUC threatens Northern Ireland health department with legal action over re-issued abortion guidance

SPUC has threatened the health department in Northern Ireland with further legal action following its decision to re-issue an edited version of the abortion guidance deemed unlawful by the high court last year.

Our solicitors have written to the health minister notifying him that the Society will seek a second judicial review if the guidance is not withdrawn. We argue that the High Court identified serious flaws in the way the guidance dealt with counselling for women and the right of doctors not to participate in abortions. Lord Justice Girvan, who rejected a request to allow an edited version to remain in operation, ordered the department to withdraw the guidance in full.

The letter from our lawyers describes the department's latest move as "irrational or perverse".

Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland told the media this morning:
"It’s simply irrational and perverse for the department of health to re-issue its guidance on abortion law without giving any weight to the High Court's findings. It was clear from Lord Justice Girvan’s judgement on 30 November that the guidance ought to be withdrawn as a whole, not just in part. Any doubt about this was removed on 14 December when the judge rejected the department's request merely to cut two sections from the document. The judge accepted SPUC's argument that the guidance was not made up of hermetically-sealed sections but the issues it dealt with were inter-related.

"Allowing the re-issued guidance to stand could be seriously misleading and might result in grave injustices taking place. It could suggest that there is no right of non-participation in abortion, that counselling is unimportant, or that there is no guidance which can usefully be given on either of these matters.

"SPUC is calling on the department to withdraw the guidance immediately. We are prepared to go back to court to make sure that it is withdrawn."
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