goes to the High Court
fpaNI goes to High Court
in fight for equal rights to abortion for ALL women of Northern
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
"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
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.