Northern Ireland Health Dept Re-Issues Abortion Guidelines Despite Losing Case
by Steven Ertelt
February 9, 2010
Belfast, Northern Ireland (LifeNews.com) — Although the Northern Ireland health department lost its case in court after pro-life groups challenged its abortion rules, the department has released them again. The pro-life group Precious Life today condemned he Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) for re-releasing the guidelines.
The decision comes after the High Court had ordered the health department late last year to withdraw them.
Precious Life said the DHSSPS’ actions were "arrogant and deceitful."
The organization says the guidelines, which explain the rare circumstances when abortions can be legally done, could be used to legalize abortion through the back door.
After a legal challenge to the guidelines in October 2009, the High Court in Belfast ruled that two sections were misleading and ordered the guidelines be withdrawn. In December, lawyers for the DHSSPS went back to court to argue that only the two sections should be reconsidered.
However, Lord Justice Girvan again said the entire guidelines were misleading and that he would not vary his order requiring the guidelines to be withdrawn.
Director of Precious Life, Bernadette Smyth, told LifeNews.com today: Lord Justice Girvan said the two sections of the guidelines that he had criticized were significant portions, and the effect of the errors made the guidelines as a whole misleading.
"Twice the Court has ruled the entire guidelines as a whole are misleading. But the DHSSPS have now arrogantly ignored the judge’s ruling," Smyth added. "In a press statement the DHSSPS deceitfully say they have ‘withdrawn’ their guidelines. This is a blatant lie. They have not withdrawn the guidelines; they have reissued the same guidelines with two sections ‘temporarily removed.’ "
Smyth added: Precious Life will continue to lobby our Assembly Members to ensure there is a new consultation process on completely new guidelines with input from pro-life medical and legal experts. Any future guidance issued by Department of Health must clearly outline the illegality of abortion, and fully acknowledge the right to life of our unborn children and their protection in law.
She promised the pro-life group would take the health department back to court if it did not withdraw the re-released guidelines.
The initial document said 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."
Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of Great Britain, does not allow abortions and makes them available only when the life of the mother is at risk.
The health department reported in December that legal abortions carried out in Northern Ireland averaged almost two per week last year.
Official figures released in response to an assembly question asked by SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey revealed that 92 women had abortions in 2008. Some 79 women underwent an abortion in Northern Ireland the previous year.
In May, a Department of Health report revealed that 1,173 women had traveled to England to have an abortion last year, in comparison to 1,343 for 2007.
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