After a long battle through the courts, today “in Belfast three senior judges ordered the Department of Health to draw up guidelines on when abortions can be carried out under existing law.” The time and the cost of this legal argument, between the Family Planning Association and the Department of Health, to simply produce guidelines on the current legal position is an indictment of our politicians, of almost all parties, who have obstructed, directly and indirectly, any progress on this issue.
In the judgement, Lord Justice Nicholson said: “Abortion is a controversial subject. The available evidence supports the view that the vast majority of people do not wish to have the Abortion Act 1967 extended to Northern Ireland.”
He said the Family Planning Association wished to have the law changed to incorporate the Abortion Act but he was satisfied it recognised that any such change was a matter for Parliament and not the courts.
Lord Justice Nicholson said: “I consider that medical practitioners are not adequately aware of the principles that govern the law relating to abortion in Northern Ireland. ”
He added: “This judgement is written in the hope that the Department will seek to reduce the number of women and girls going away to seek an abortion and to encourage those seeking an abortion in Northern Ireland to make a different choice.
“It must surely be the concern of all right-thinking persons in the United Kingdom that the number of abortions is so high.”
In 2000 the Assembly backed a motion opposing the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to NI. According to this BBC report the only party that opposed the motion, rather than the extension of the Act, was the PUP.