High Court rules Northern Ireland Secretary failed to provide high quality abortion services

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High Court rules Northern Ireland Secretary failed to provide high quality abortion services

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State for Northern Ireland leaves a hotel to attend the annual Conservative Party conference in Manchester, on October 4, 2021. BELFAST, Oct 14 Reuters : The United Kingdom's Northern Ireland Secretary failed to comply with his duties to expeditiously provide women in the region with access to high quality abortion and post-abortion services. A judge in the British-run province ruled on Thursday.

However, Mr Justice Brandon Lewis declined to issue an order compelling the British Secretary of State to set a timetable for the provision of services and dismissed a claim for judicial review against the jurisdiction's minister of health and Executive Committee.

The High Court decision came after the Northern Ireland Human Rights CommissionIreland Human Rights Commission launched a judicial review challenge to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland ExecutiveIreland Executive and its Department of Health over failure to commission and fund abortion services.

This was an important case for the Commission to take to uphold the rights of women and girls in Northern Ireland, said Chief Commissioner Alyson Kilpatrick.

We are thrilled with the decision of the High Court which will now take some time for us to review the impact of the decision. Yet in 2021 women and girls continue to have to travel to England to access abortion services, are forced to continue a pregnancy against their wishes or take unregulated abortion pills, Kilpatrick said.

The Commission brought this case because of the unacceptable delay in the delivery of adequate services. A new legal framework for abortion services took effect in March 2020, but devolved government services have not yet been properly funded and introduced because of differences between anti-abortion and pro-choice politicians.

The High Court found that between April 2020 and March 2021 Secretary of State Lewis failed to comply with the 2019 Act in that he failed to ensure expeditiously that the state provided women in Northern Ireland with access to high quality abortion and post-abortion care in all public health facilities.

The court noted that the situation is an ongoing one with fluid developments.

Since hearing of the case, Lewis has asked relevant parties in Northern Ireland to commission abortion services by March 2022, which is likely further resisted by some politicians in the region.