England bars NI abortion-seekers

Women from Northern Ireland are no longer legally allowed to seek abortions in England, ruled a High Court judge.

The High Court in London has ruled that pregnant women from Northern Ireland will no longer be allowed to have abortions on the NHS in England after two women challenged the current law.

The presiding judge, Justice King, ruled that women from Northern Ireland would no longer be allowed to seek abortions on the NHS, as the English health service had “a duty in relation to the physical and mental health of people in England” and not to those from elsewhere.

Dawn Purvis, director of family planning organisation Marie Stopes Northern Ireland, said the organisation was “hugely disappointed that the women of Northern Ireland, who are citizens of the UK, remain unable to access the same services from the NHS as their mainland counterparts.”

Justice King cautioned against labelling the decision discriminatory, as Northern Ireland is not covered by the 1967 Abortion Act that allows English, Scottish and Welsh women access to abortions.  

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland in all but high risk cases, with just 51 abortions performed in local hospitals in 2013. The law prompts more than a 1,000 women to seek abortions in other parts of the UK each year, with England recording a “steady stream” of pregnant women from Northern Ireland.