Wednesday, July 1, 2009

From BBC News: Abortion guide to be challenged

Campaigners have won High Court permission to challenge government guidelines on abortion in Northern Ireland.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) was granted leave to seek a judicial review in its bid to have the advice redrafted.

Lawyers for the body claim the guidance issued to health professionals is misleading and legally inaccurate.

The document was published in March after a series of legal battles.

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland, except in limited circumstances where the mother's life or mental well being are considered at risk.

SPUC is seeking a High Court declaration that the government guidance does not properly set out the law.

Full hearing

During the first stage of its legal battle lawyers for the group claimed the guidance also fails to deal with the rights of the unborn child and provided inadequate advice for conscientious objectors within the medical profession.

The Department of Health's legal representatives rejected allegations it had failed to make clear that abortion was illegal in Northern Ireland apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

It was also stressed that the document was for health workers rather than the general public.

After weighing up the arguments, Mr Justice Weatherup granted leave to apply for a judicial review.

The case will now advance to a full hearing later this year.

Outside the court, Liam Gibson, SPUC's Northern Ireland Development Officer, said he was pleased to get the opportunity to put forward issues he claimed were not properly considered during the original consultation process.

But Audrey Simpson, director of the Family Planning Association said SPUC had a weak case.

She expressed frustration that a new "vacuum" would continue until the legal challenge is resolved.

"We had planned to produce an information leaflet for women so they know what their rights are, but we can't do that now until we know how the judicial review will go, and whether it will be amended."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/06/30 11:43:18 GMT