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Ireland and abortion
  fpaNI goes to the High Court
Press release

fpaNI goes to High Court in fight for equal rights to abortion for ALL women of Northern Ireland

fpaNI (formerly known as The Family Planning Association, Northern Ireland) confirmed today that it is taking the historic step of seeking leave to apply for a Judicial Review of the current state of medical practice in relation to the provision of services to women in Northern Ireland in need of termination of pregnancy. Papers were lodged with the High Court in Belfast on Thursday May 3rd 2001.

"fpaNI is asking the Courts to advise the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) that it is their duty to ensure that all women in Northern Ireland have equal access to reproductive healthcare services. This is a major step, as it is the first time that such an action has been taken," said Audrey Simpson, Director of fpaNI.

Although the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply to Northern Ireland, it is accepted by DHSSPS that abortion is legal in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, there is a lack of clarity around the circumstances and this results in confusing and inconsistent medical practice. DHSSPS has confirmed that Departmental Guidance in relation to the provision of abortion services has not been issued and yet statistics reveal that in 1999 over 70 abortions were performed in Northern Ireland.

The absence of official guidance means that, ultimately, decision making power about who qualifies for an NHS abortion in Northern Ireland is left to the medical profession, who are also the victims of this confusion. Very little information is available to women themselves.

In reality the vast majority of women who decide to terminate a pregnancy are forced to travel to Britain. Some 40,000 women, in the last twenty years, have crossed the channel paying a minimum of £450 to meet travel and medical costs; costs that can increase up to £900 as the pregnancy advances.

Ms Simpson said, "Every day Northern Irish women of all ages, social classes, cultural backgrounds and religious affiliations choose to terminate a pregnancy but because of the 'walls of silence' that surround abortion in Northern Ireland this reality is hidden. These women may include your daughter, sister, or best friend and we owe them equal rights to reproductive healthcare services because they deserve no less."

Anne Weyman, fpa Chief Executive said, "fpa has decided to take this unique step to ensure that all women in the UK have equal access to appropriate, high quality NHS abortion services. It is a gross injustice to the women of Northern Ireland that they are forced to travel for a basic healthcare service which should by right be theirs."

For further information contact the fpa press office on 020 7923 5203/1 (mobile 07958 921060) or Audrey Simpson, Director fpaNI on 02890 325 488 or 07909 972 678.

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