Update and comment
1. fpaNI granted leave
for judicial review
Yesterday, the Family Planning
Association in Northern Ireland was granted leave for a
judicial review at the High Court in Belfast. This could
lead to a change in the law on abortion in Northern Ireland.
According to Audrey Simpson, director of fpaNI, the law
on abortion is confused and unclear. Although the 1967 Abortion
Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, 71 abortions were
performed there in 1999, mainly for fetal abnormality. Most
women seeking abortion however, travel from Northern Ireland
to England; around 2, 000 do so each year.
'No one is clear about the
guidelines so the decisions are being left up to individual
doctors' said Simpson. 'We are taking this case on behalf
of women who are entitled to the same access to reproductive
healthcare services as the rest of the UK."
Lord Lester QC, a human-rights
lawyer who is representing the fpaNI, said it was not within
the court's remit to seek a change in the law. But he argued
the Stormont department of health, headed by Sinn Fein minister
Bairbre de Brun, must issue guidance to ease the burden
on women facing unwanted pregnancies. 'The department can't
shelter behind legal uncertainty as a justification for
taking no action,' he said.
campaigners have condemned the actions of the fpaNI. Betty
Gibson, Northern Ireland spokeswoman for the Society for
the Protection of Unborn Children, said: 'The fpa is part
of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which
is committed to introducing abortion on demand throughout
the world by all possible means.'
Mr Justice Kerr gave anti-abortion
organisations and the Catholic bishops three weeks to make
written submissions, detailing why they should be allowed
to participate in the judicial review. The fpaNI will then
have three weeks to reply. The department of health will
have this six week period to submit its statement, and the
court will reconvene on September 12 to set a date for the
Rosie Cowan Ulster faces court challenge over abortion,
The Guardian, June 14, 2001
2. Women on Waves
Extensive media debate has
followed the launch of a ship, by the Dutch organisation
Women on Waves. The ship, staffed by medically trained crew,
is equipped to perform abortions early in pregnancy, and
seeks to highlight the problem of illegal abortion. It first
stopping point will be Dublin. The following statement is
Statement in support
of Women on Waves from British Pregnancy Advisory Service
BPAS, Britain's largest
provider of abortion services, welcomes the Women on Waves
initiative to highlight the problems caused to women when
abortion is illegal. In 2000 6,381 women travelled from
Ireland to have abortions in Britain.
Abortion is a fact of life
for women in Ireland, just as it is in Britain. In modern
society, we expect to decide if and when to have children.
We expect to enjoy sex without the fear of pregnancy. But
we cannot regulate our fertility by contraception alone.
Even when contraception is used carefully it can fail and
so, if we are to plan our families, women need access to
safe, legal abortion services.
Women in Ireland need access
to abortion just as much as women in the rest of Europe.
Because Irish women cannot find a solution to their crisis
pregnancies in their home country they endure the indignity
and expense of travelling abroad. At BPAS, we are proud
to provide an affordable, high quality abortion service,
but women from Ireland should be able to come to our clinics
in Britain out of choice and not out of necessity because
they are denied abortion in their home country.
Irish laws are a matter
for Irish people - but no one can deny the need for abortion
in Ireland. Irish women use abortion services, just as British
women use abortion services. Our Irish clients are much
the same as our British clients. The difference is that
they have to travel hundreds of miles for the basic reproductive
health care that most women throughout Europe and North
America take for granted.
Most of the women we see
are not 'sad victims'. They are normal women who feel that
they should be able to make reproductive decisions for themselves.
We see teenagers who arrive, sometimes alone, but more usually
with their mum or aunt. We see married women who love their
existing children but feel unable or willing to add to their
family. We see professional women who have other priorities.
We see women who were at one time happy to be pregnant but
for whom a change in circumstances means they now feel unable
to have the child they once wanted. We see women who have
been unable to obtain contraception and women whose contraception
has failed them.
Laws prohibiting abortion
do not prevent it. They simply punish women by making it
more difficult to obtain.
Residents of Irish Republic
having abortions in England and Wales 1996 to 2000*
|<* figures for 2000 are provisional
Gestation at time of
abortion for BPAS clients in 2000
|<Republic of Ireland
|<England and Wales
Age at time of abortion
for BPAS clients in 2000
|Republic of Ireland
|England & Wales
To make an appointment
with BPAS call +44 121 450 7700. Abortion care at BPAS costs
from £345 to £720 depending on gestation.