Northern Ireland Health Department’s Abortion Guidelines Challenged by Pro-Lifers

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Northern Ireland Health Department’s Abortion Guidelines Challenged by Pro-Lifers

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 1
, 2009

Belfast, Northern Ireland ( — The abortion guidelines the Northern Ireland health department released in March are drawing a challenge from a pro-life group. Pro-life advocates say the guidelines, which explain the rare circumstances when abortions can be legally done, could be used to legalize abortions through the back door.

Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of Great Britain, does not allow abortions and make them available only when the life of the mother is at risk.

The new document says abortions can be done for two reasons: to "preserve the life of the woman" or if a physician determines continuing the pregnancy will impose "a risk of real and serious adverse effect on her physical or mental health which is either long-term or permanent."

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a pro-life group that operates in Great Britain, challenged the guidelines in court and its challenge has been accepted.

The High Court in Belfast has granted an application to SPUC for a judicial review of the guidelines.

Mr Justice Weatherup allowed the application on the grounds that the department has erred in law in its view of the law on abortion in Northern Ireland, SPUC told today.

Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland said: "We are very grateful to have the opportunity to present the issues that were not properly examined during the consultation, particularly the recommendations of the Stormont health committee. We hope that the department will now be reasonable and redraft the guidance which were fundamentally flawed and need radical revision."

Gibson said the law in Northern Ireland "not only safeguards the lives of unborn children but also protects women from the terrible damage which abortion can cause."

"By issuing guidance that distorts the law, the department of health has created a grave threat to unborn children, to the safety of women and to the rights of medical professionals," he said.
He said the guidance was "so fatally flawed that it will lead to the situation where no abortion in Northern Ireland would be considered impermissible."

The documents make no mention of the fact that abortion causes serious, and sometimes lethal, long-term medical and mental health problems for women.

The document indicates a suicide threat would be a reason for an abortion, even though research clearly shows having an abortion increases a woman’s risk of committing suicide.

At the time the guidelines were released, Bernadette Smyth, the director of Precious Life, told she is concerned.

“These guidelines are skewed in favor of performing, rather than not performing abortions," she said. "The laws that protect unborn children in Northern Ireland are very clear. Killing an unborn child is illegal and a criminal offence."

"The guidelines fail to distinguish between ‘direct’ abortion – when the child is intentionally killed – and ‘indirect’ abortion – when the child dies unintentionally as a result of the mother receiving life-saving medical treatment," she explained.

In January, a new report indicated a record number of women from Northern Ireland headed to England and Wales in 2007 for abortions.

Related web sites:
Precious Life –

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