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More than just a question of choice

With the applicants in the Northern Ireland abortion case set for an appeal to Strasbourg, Scotland looking at offering NI women NHS termination, and the DUP about to support a Conservative government, the issue isn’t going to go away, says Anna Macey

27 June 2017

Two weeks ago, a sharply divided Supreme Court rejected an attempt to declare unlawful the secretary of state for health’s refusal to fund abortions on the NHS for women travelling to England from Northern Ireland.

The Abortion Act 1967 does not apply in NI. Sections 57 and 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 are still in force, and make performing or having an abortion a criminal offence. Criminal law relating to abortion has been devolved to the NI Assembly. It is not an offence for NI women to obtain abortions in Britain. Official statistics suggest around 1,000 per year do so, although this is likely to be a considerable underestimate.

In 2012, aged 15, A fell pregnant and travelled with her mother, B, to Manchester for an early termination from a private healthcare provider. The cost of the termination was £600, and A and B struggled to raise this...

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