Court to hear challenge to decision to prosecute woman over abortion pills

The High Court in Belfast is set to hear a legal challenge to a decision to prosecute a woman who obtained abortion pills for her teenage daughter.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland.

Abortion is illegal except where a woman’s life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious danger to her mental or physical health.

In June, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission lost a Supreme Court appeal over the legality of the region’s abortion law.

But a majority of judges said the existing law was incompatible with human rights law in cases of fatal foetal abnormality and sexual crime.

The mother is now challenging the decision to prosecute her over allegations she obtained abortifacient medication for her 15-year-old daughter who was pregnant.

The case involving the woman, who cannot be named to ensure her daughter’s anonymity, is known as JR76.

She is supported by Amnesty International and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissioner who are both intervenors in the case.

The High Court in Belfast to set to hear the case on Thursday.

It is expected to be heard over two days.

Grainne Teggart, of Amnesty International, said the experience has been devastating for the woman and her family.

Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International (PA)
Grainne Teggart of Amnesty International (PA)

“If she was from any other part of the UK where safe and legal abortion pills are easily accessible, her family wouldn’t be facing this traumatic ordeal,” she said.

“The judges must see that this is such obvious unfair cruelty. They now have the power to not only give this woman her life back, but to give hope to all women and girls living in Northern Ireland.

“We urge the judges to consider this case and its implications carefully and listen to all of those who are calling for an end to this demeaning, harmful and unjust law.

“This mother is not a criminal. Her daughter is not a criminal. Women who want to access abortions in Northern Ireland are not criminals – the law should not treat them as such.”

Chief Commissioner Les Allamby described JR76 as an “extremely important case”.

Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (PA)
Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (PA)

“It is the first time that local courts will be able to consider how our laws criminalise termination of pregnancy since the Commission’s Supreme Court judgement in June,” he said.

“The Supreme Court has outlined that Northern Ireland’s laws on termination of pregnancy are contrary to human rights standards.

“The Commission is arguing that the court in Belfast should follow the judgement of the Supreme Court when coming to its decision in this case.”

- Press Association

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